“Honey, I love you a lot, but when we go in there, try not to be so much yourself as usual, okay?”
We were standing outside of my boyfriend’s house, poised for of all things, a funeral. I was sixteen, two years before I met irowboat, and for some reason I don’t remember anything else about that night. In fact, I’m not even positive it was a funeral gathering.
But there it was – exactly what I had always been afraid people wanted from me, for me to be less me. Even they guy I thought would one day marry me felt the need to ask me to tone it down. What could that say about me?
I chose the inspiration for this week for a reason; I am scared of who I am inside of all these words I have to share and choose from, I’m frightened of the person I am uncovering within the stories I write.
It is often said that writers put some of themselves in their writing.
But I’m coming to understand that our writing can illuminate us – who we are, what questions we are begging the world to answer for us, what we love, and, most of all, what our wounds are.
When we write from those deep places (especially when we forget that we’re doing just that) then there is an unveiling, and the truer pieces of who we are can sparkle through.
I had a chance to see some parts of myself in every novel I’ve written this year so far – each one uncovers just a little more of my deeper self. Never more so than writing a novel in a week. I met some true part of myself in the mists of last fifteen thousand words written Friday night. I dove in, nose held, and stayed right there in the heat of creating and found myself in places I never dreamed I could dream.
I took my characters on a dark and twisted ride through the deepest recesses of my soul, and all of us came out changed. Particularly me.
Reading a good book can completely change our lives. It changes us because the writer was willing to stay on the dark edge of their consciousness, they were willing to dive within their depths and find their own truths to deliver to us in the form of story, in myth. They give us something that makes us know we’re lovable and human and so much greater than the sum of our parts.
This is part of our jobs as writers, to discover what lies true within ourselves, we must face what is too much of us, what we’ve let other people tell us is not okay to be or say in a funeral, at dinner, in the car on the way home from the airport. We have to be willing to write deep enough to find out that we are nothing of the person we thought we were.
This discovery of deep truths is not comfortable.
But it is wonderful. And scary. And strange.
And if reading a great story can change us, can illuminate our souls, even the smallest corner, then what must writing great stories be but this, this diving down into the unknown, do? For one thing, we can’t go on living as quite the same person as before.
It changes us.
Between the writing, up in the real world of society and social niceties, we run the risk of being so much more ourselves after finding out more about that wild thing we thought we controlled is running free.
As we write, we wake up.
And maybe, if you’re doing it right, someone will ask you be not so much yourself some day.
And when they do, smile and say, “No, thank you.”
Because you’ve earned everything you have become.