Wednesday, July 3, 2013

F is for Freedom

"Freedom comes when you write the book you need to write," says mystery writer, Gar Anthony Haywood. "It's the book that expresses your fears, rage and true desires," adds Sue Grafton, the creator of the alphabet series featuring witty, hard-edged detective, Kinsey Milhone. They're not talking about the "Ego" you, but the "Shadow" you, to use Jungian terms. "Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." 

At the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Sue spoke about how listening to Shadow Sue changed her life as a writer and gave her the freedom and courage to blast through her inhibitions. All artists balance on a tightrope between Ego and Shadow -- the self we present to the world and the raw, primal emotions we're afraid to show.
Sue Grafton & me, lit by her shadow

I spent many long years writing around my truths and obsessions, trying to disguise myself as a "normal" American girl. The key word was "normal," which of course existed only in my fantasies and on TV sitcoms. In my first novel, The Road to Fez, Brit Lek, a Moroccan-Jewish immigrant girl, sneaks into a Christmas store window and poses next to plastic mannequins and a Christmas tree, hoping to pass as one of them.

Writing that scene terrified me. Reading it aloud to an audience of strangers was even more terrifying. But each time I listened to Shadow Ruth scold me, steer me, guide me, I knew I was getting closer to the truth. If you wake up in the middle of the night and hear an eerily familiar voice whispering in your ear: "That scene sucks ... the flat note is a lie ... the illusion doesn't go far enough ... Go deeper, darker...", listen. That's the voice of freedom.

How does your shadow affect your art?

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