Sometimes, a convergence of “hints” whacks me across the face, wakes me up and tells me it’s time to do something. Here’s what smacked me this time:
But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
2) This lead me to an article on the blog, Brain Pickings about Anais Nin‘s diaries, titled “Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity” where Ms. Nin was quoted:
You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
3) A few days later, this tweet
whispered in my ear screamed “AHA!!”
Mr. Flanagan’s quote, in particular, has stayed with me, for I have always striven to show only what was beautiful. I’ve always hidden what is “monstrous” inside me, or, at least what is not beautiful. They are my imperfections, the things that I was always taught would make me “lose face”–one of the greatest sins for someone in my culture. At least that’s what I was taught.
4) Linda Austin’s recent interview of memoir author, Kathy Pooler fell right into place with these other “hints.” In the interview based on Pooler’s book, Ever Faithful to His Lead, when asked about her fear of what her real-life characters’ reactions to the memoir might be, Ms. Pooler replied:
In the end, I reconciled my concerns with the belief that this story is about my truth and my choices, and I made sure I did not intentionally disparage him in the story.
The fact that these “hints” appeared in the middle of a family maelstrom was not lost on me. It was as if someone was trying to send me a message.
years decades of my life, I’ve learned a person (me, specifically) can’t keep a monster hidden for long, for any monster worth its weight in ferocity, ugliness, excess, cruelty or sin cannot be kept forever locked behind even the most fortified door in the darkest corner of my an (oops!) internal prison, no matter how intensely one wants to please, to “save face.” Eventually, he (or she, as the case may be) breaks free.
I can’t tell you the number of times “secrets” about me, about my life, have blocked my writing. Isn’t it true that the purpose of writing is to make connections by sharing our experiences, our imperfections, our deepest, truest feelings, whether through non-fiction or safer fiction? Remember what Mr. Fitzgerald said?
…the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
Of course, it isn’t always a “first tragic love story” an author might try to tear out of her heart to put on paper. Maybe instead, an author’s deepest emotion revolves around a
dysfunctional challenging childhood, or the birth and end of a beautiful and monstrous marriage. Maybe she’d like to share her thoughts on lessons learned (or not) through mistakes she’s made.
And what about the others who are a part of those stories? People who are also both monstrous and beautiful, no matter the “face” they hide behind. Is it a betrayal to write about their involvement? How do I write the full truth of my story without writing the full truth about their story? Though I may decide there’s no value in “saving” a false face, is it fair to make that decision for them?
I want to write about beautiful things–and monsters, too–because I agree with Mr. Flanagan, and I want to be fully human and not a paper doll cutout of Miss Goody Two Shoes.
Though I make no monstrous confessions here, I am inching toward authenticity. But does authenticity necessitate confessing everything? I am obviously battling with what Mr. Fitzgerald called “what is nice.” I am currently a soldier who is only a “little brave.”
I’ve asked a lot of questions here, and I’d be most interested to read any of your thoughts. In the end, I ask: