“Writer, predator; what’s the difference?”
Words hurled at me in response to words hurled at another. I did not mean to hurl them; I meant to lob them gently in honour of a woman who inspired me to reflect on the consequences of our inclinations, and it backfired.
Guess you can’t dip your fingers in someone else’s honey without them asking you to wash your hands both before and after. Fair enough, I suppose.
I was compelled to join that woman’s parade, to fortify her outline with my words. The compulsion to make her a different kind of real—the kind of real that could be solidified and therefore shared—was an itch that grew unbearable the longer it went unscratched.
Writers have bad boundaries—maybe that’s why we’re writers and not therapists or doctors (like we could sober up long enough to make it through med school anyway).
So we don’t, generally, go to med school.
We bleed into you instead—friends, family, acquaintances, semi-strangers, utter strangers etc.—and then we withdraw to the privacy of ourselves to sample our beautiful extractions. We have a sense of what it means for I to become we; unfortunately it’s often not reciprocated as those around us fight to secure their privacy.
Sort of. Because if I’m folding the essence of another’s experience into my work it’s because it is, on some level, pinging off my own experience and emotions. I went through a similar door and am writing about symbiotic feelings; sometimes ‘mine’ feels like ‘ours’ just as ‘yours’ feels like ‘ours’ though our biographies may differ.
Last week’s blog was an example of this emotional/tactical stew. Some of the events reeled off in my state-of-play were biographical while others were not. Some were of-the-moment issues while others were not.
I was not thinking of the effect this confusion could have on the people around me. There was much concern and I was deeply touched by the people who reached out to me. I was also deeply embarrassed by my own oversite, and it led me—once again—to consider the weight of words and the responsibility of compiling, then sharing, those words with others.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt shaken by the response to words I’ve committed to paper. Every question asked of me concerning the why and how and what’s going on has made me a better, more aware, more responsible writer.
But some days I still feel like a hack in wolf’s clothing.
I take crazy detours into my own and other people’s shadow side and I work out what I found with words. I can never tell if I’m collecting pieces of history and heart from the boneyard of our collective humanity or if I’m merely a thief.
Or if, perhaps, I am nothing at all. There exists that possibility that the answer, much like the question, is neither here nor there and I can merely go on with collecting, digging, assessing, and reassembling as I see fit.
For now. Until my sense of responsibility must be brought to bear once more—most likely in the form of an emotional bitch-slap from indispensable familiars and gorgeous semi-strangers in my life, to whom I’m eternally indebted.
Life cannot capsize the human heart without permission, even the events that maimed us or threatened to sunder us heart from bone. Words, however, have teeth of their own and can configure terrible moments into something that heals, haunts, or hurts.
Or provokes a discussion that leads onward and upward, both on the page and in life.
Words wield astonishing power, and that power must be used responsibly. But Jesus Christ that’s a tall and difficult order, and one I’m surely going to fail on occasion.
And I will give verbal and private thanks for all who show up to essentially ask me what the fuck?, forcing me to come to terms once again with what I’ve lobbed into their periphery…