Small Flashlight, Big Darkness
Today’s post is a hard one for me to settle into because it could so easily devolve into navel gazing, and one of the promises I made to myself and to my readers back when I wrote my very first ever blog post was that I would keep the navel gazing to a minimum. There must be a gazillion writer and write-hopefuls blogging, and each one is convinced that their journey to writing success is totally unique and must be shared. Well maybe not each one, maybe I’m only speaking for myself, in which case, I blush heartily and apologise.
My point is that all of the energy, angst, fear, adrenaline, exploration of dark places, exploration of forbidden places that used to go into the pages and pages of that gargantuan navel-gaze that was my journal now go through that strange internal filtering process that takes all my many neuroses and insecurities, all my deep-seated fears, all my misplaced teenage angst and magically transforms them into story.
That was sort of my little secret — that I alone, in all the world, suffered uniquely and exquisitely for my art. I took all the flawed and wounded parts of myself, parts I wasn’t comfortable facing, examined them reflected through the medium of story and found a place where I could view them and not run away screaming.
Originally it was a BBC article which asked the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’that brought on all this borderline navel-gazing. At the time I shared it on Facebook and Twitter to find that lots of other writers had shared it as well and the general response was simply that it sounded about right. There were some very moving conversations that came out of those sharings of that article along with the realization — something I’ve long suspected — that I am not all alone out there in my vibrant unique neurotic bubble. And really, it comes as no surprise that one has to be at least a little neurotic to be ballsy enough to try to bring, in one form or another, what lives in our imagination into the real world and to attempt to put it out there for everyone to see.
As the article was shared around and the responses mounted, I found myself thinking of C.G. Jung’s archetype of the Wounded Healer. The healer can only ever heal in others what she herself is suffering from. Empathy goes much deeper than sympathy. The human capacity for story is as old as we are. Before the written word, story was the community archive. It was our memory of who we are, our history, our continuity, our triumphs, trials, sufferings, joys, all memorised, filed away, and kept safely in the mind of the story teller. That had to do something to your head, knowing that you were the keeper of the story of your people! How could storytellers be anything other than neurotic?
It’s a lot more personal now that we have the written word. No one has to dedicate their lives to memorising the story of their people. Now we tell our own story, the story of the internal battles that wound us, the story of those wounds transformed. We all tell our stories in our own personal code. What may well start out as a navel gaze into the deep dark wilderness of Self can be transformed into powerful, vibrant story, and we’re healed! At least temporarily, or at least we’re comforted. And hopefully so are those with whom we share our stories. When I journalled my navel-gazes, I wasn’t interested in anyone else seeing what was on those pages. It was a one-sided attempt at a neurotic house-cleaning. Sharing the story is a part of the healing; sharing the story is a part of the journey. The Storyteller had no purpose if she didn’t share the story with her people.
As a neurotic living among other neurotics, I doubt that there’s anything we’re more neurotic about as a people than sexuality. I don’t think it’s any real surprise that there’s suddenly a huge market for erotica. Last night I sat on a panel of erotica authors, editors and publishers at the Guildford Book Fair – something that would have never happened before Fifty Shades of Grey, and even at 9:00 in the evening, we played to a full house. Each of us had a story of how we came to write erotica. We shared our stories with a roomful of people, who then took those stories away with them to possibly be shared with others. The archetype of the storyteller is alive and well. And I believe writers live out the archetype of the wounded healer on a daily basis.
Most of the time I write my stories because it’s just too much fun not to. That’s the truth of it. I seldom consciously dig deep to find those wounded, neurotic places. Really, who would want to do that deliberately? But the wounded places find me, and they end up finding their way into the story. And what surfaces is never quite what I expected, always more somehow, even if starts out to be nothing more than a passing dream I can’t get out of my head.