Sunday, November 11, 2007

Growing up with the hero archetype: on Writing

This Sunday morning, I am thinking again about how Dad's refusal to give up, in spite of his obvious physical limitations could be the very inspiration that I need to press on.

In a weird crucible of twisted wires, I have inherited both his dogged determination and my mom's self-effacing, uncertainty. (I have also inherited somebody's megalomania, self-involvement and arrogance). So I am a combo-pack of shyness about self-promotion coupled with certainty of my talent, pluckiness and determination coupled with exhausting periods of couch-potato, remote clicking depresion, embarrassment over the slightest mistake coupled with a complete disregard for anyone else's opinion, acute perfectionsm couple with personal sloppiness.

A difficult combination.

This morning Ive been reading Betsy Lerner's "The Forest for the Trees" an editor's advice to writers. It's a very good--and I mean VERY good--analysis of the writer's psyche... kind of like having a person hold a magnifying glass over the top of your brain and point out all the wiring--"See, here's the tendency toward addictive, compulsive behavior," and "See, here's the place where self-doubt bleeds over into self-confidence," and, "Look, here are the memories where everyone in this writer's life told her how special she was," "Oh, and, here it is, the telltale signature of every writer's brain: Crossed wires."

Writers are historically drinkers, outcasts, acter-uppers. Or we are dressed all in white, hiding in garrets stuffing our brilliance into drawers. It's a feeling, at once lofty-making and humbling, to put oneself into the company of great writers, to begin to imagine one can sit on the same bus or in the same cafe... But how else can we pick up the pen and write but to assume that our words are just as important--at least to us--as those of Plath, Hemingway, Pound, or Sexton.

Reading this book, I find myself thinking of Dad... as I said earlier, and of how I can use his life as an example--and use my mother's struggle with self-esteem and mental health, that way, too. That they keep going, little Energizer bunnies of faith, Little Engines That Could, working, sifting, standing, walking--under the wonderful illusion that one day they'll get it right, get better. One day, they'll escape from the past, and break into the light.

Which is why, I guess, I write. Why Im going back to school--again. Why people get up in the moring, why any artist creates, why any nurse pulls on her white, rubber soled shoes.

Because of that illusion (which we call hope), and that light, off in the distance, calling us home to ourselves.

(As Shakespeare wrote, in a Midsummer Night's Dream, "That was lofty.")

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