Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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.

Where is all this borderline navel-gazing leading? There was a BBC article about ten days ago asking the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’ 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 started out to be nothing more than a little ménage in a veg patch.


  1. Great post, KD, and thank you!

    I think the practice of navel-gazing at personal neurosis is only worthwhile if it teaches you to apply the same focus on the other. i.e. If YOU have all this inner complexity, then so must others. And so must your characters. And, although they are not yours, they are as deeply felt and play as much part as a catalyst or motivational force as yours do.

  2. Hi, Kathy,

    I have a guest blog post related to this topic elsewhere today (the 31st) - about the fact that I (and I think many other authors) write erotica to explore our "dark cravings" and experience situations we don't dare act out in the real world. This isn't exactly what you're talking about, I know. However, it's another side of the way authors take the personal and make it - well, we'd like to dream anyway - universal.

    The old "creativity = insanity" equation bothers me, though. Do we really have to be damaged in order to create art? I hope not, because I count myself among the less neurotic people I know (at least now - it is true I spent three months in a psychiatric hospital when I was a teen!)

    In any case, thanks for a beautiful and thought-provoking post.

  3. Thanks RG, and Lisabet for the great comments. RG, I've tried twice to answer your comment and my responses seem to be lost in cyber-space. But I agree totally. I think the characters I create allow me to look at my neuroses from a safe distance, and the interaction with those characters, I find very healing and much more complex than I could have easily imagined.

    Lisabet, I've always said erotica is the ultimate 'safe sex.' It allows us and our readers to explore the darker, more dangerous parts of desire in ways we would never do in the real world.

    I think 'creativity=insanity is a bit extreme, but I do admit to finding the best part of my writing comes out of my own neuroses, of which ther are many.
    I find the topic fascinating.

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. The best optometrists I've had wear glasses for sure! I love this concept of the Wounded Healer. I believe that empathy and heart are the unacknowledged magic of all the arts and every other human interaction as well. We lose sight of this in a "rational," bottom-line oriented world.

    I did my dissertation on madness and creativity in Japanese literature of the 1970s, so I'm also hesitant to go with the popular "writers are crazy, therefore you go crazy when you write" misconception (not that you are here, just that some loud people make that assumption). I do think a good writer is usually more sensitive to the world around her than, say, a born car salesman. That sensitivity is sometimes called "neurosis," but that all depends on what you define as normal. Is caring what Paris Hilton does normal?

    Finally, to continue with the archetypal energy, writers are the spokespeople for our imaginations and thus have a kind of shamanic power. People seem genuinely interested in how writers create, so it's not navel-gazing in the self-centered sense, it's articulating the creativity in all of us. Or so I like to think. So, go ahead and indulge!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.