Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Interior Person

For much of my adult life I have wondered why I think about things so deeply, why I see things others don't (or they do, but they don't talk about it), and why I can't focus on external things like most of the people I know.

I guess a part of me has always realized that it's never been a conscious choice. It's the very essence of who I am.

In fact, I wrote my first memoir when I was 27. It was about all the jobs and careers I'd had by then. I thought it might be helpful to recent college graduates. Publishing houses rejected it en mass. Finally, one editor wrote and said, "You've got a wonderful 'voice,' but no one cares about your job search or your life unless you're a celebrity."

Even that didn't dissuade me. Ultimately I hooked up with my college career counselor who had become a good friend, changed the book entirely, and wrote a "how-to" book called Job Search Strategy for College Grads, which was published.

It wasn't the story I wanted to tell, but it was a story I could tell. Still, I have continued to write "personal stuff" despite all the rejections. The reason is because I need to write it to understand my life...to make sense of the world around me.

Despite everything, I've never been interested in writing fiction. I am only interested in "confessional writing," which "is degraded by the very term used to describe this revelation of one's most intimate story, while objectivity, distance, detachment, and impartiality are valorized," according to Deena Metzger in her book, Writing for Your Life.

"Because the inner exploration is so very essential to every creative life, we must challenge those attitudes and risk the exploration of those forbidden realms," Metzger writes. "For despite the prevailing judgments, it is clear that vitality, zest, the very life force itself lie inside and are not to be dismissed, that what is acceptable never has the range of what is still unknown and unexplored, and, finally, that it is the unique vision and exploration, our own subjectivity, that we all secretly seek and cherish."

I couldn't agree more. Recently I've realized that there are paths we take because we must. For a long time I have known that I write to live. And for me, the only writing I care about comes from my heart rather than my head.

This blog is a perfect example. I've spent over 15 years researching bipolar disorder. I've read more than a hundred books on bipolarity, depression, and related topics. I've downloaded more than 1,000 pages of information. I could share that information with you, and I sometimes do.

But, for the most part, journalistic writing doesn't interest me nor does it help me clarify the issues and themes I write about. What helps me is to tell my story...to see if it resonates with you...and to hear yours in return.

While that may strike some people as narcissistic or self-absorbed, I've never seen it that way. But, perhaps Barbara Myerhoff, who was a dear friend of Deena Metzger's, explains it best:

"A self is made, not given. It is a creative and active process of attending a life that must be heard, shaped, seen, said aloud into the world, finally enacted and woven into the lives of others. Then a life attended is not an act of narcissism or disregard for others; on the other hand, it is searching through the treasures and debris of ordinary existence for the clear points of intensity that do not erode, do not separate us, that are most intensely our own, yet other people's too. The best lives and stories are made up of minute particulars that somehow are also universal and of use to others as well as oneself."

FYI...I just read Roller Coaster and learned that Marja has been feeling depressed. If you know her and treasure her as I do, I'm sure she would appreciate your support!

10 comments:

marja said...

Dear Susan,

Thank you for caring. It's so good to know there are people who understand and care. Yet this is not an ordinary depression I'm going through. I feel like doing things. Yet I have so many days of tears as well. As I told you in reply to your kind email to me, I think I'm grieving the loss of a friendship. I'm sure there are others with bipolar disorder who have experienced that and can identify.

So, while I would appreciate support and prayers, please don't worry too much about me.

Your post today hit home for me. I'm very much an interior person too and my last book, A Firm Place to Stand, really explores my life and what has motivated and upheld me. Somehow I think the book was more important for me to write than it is for others to read.

My first book, Riding the Roller Coaster is not so much so.

More Than Conquerors said...

Dear Susan,

You are a very caring person and I believe your writing helps people who are going through similar experiences to know they are not alone and that there are ways to cope with their situations.

You are also very courageous to open your life and share your experiences with many. Your honesty and sincerity makes you a very dear friend to many, including myself. You are in my thoughts and prayers always. Take care!

Hugs,
Nancie

Wendy Love said...

Susan,
You have caught my interest! I too am an interior person. I will look forward to reading more about your journey. I will pray for Marja too.
Wendy

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
You're welcome. I believe there are different types of depressions or low moods. Some are debilitating and we are unable to do anything.

Some are situational and caused by events or relationships with others. And we may be able to do things, but, like you, we feel sad.

And no matter what the causal factors or how we feel, it makes all the difference to know we are not alone...that others have gone through what we have...and that they care about us.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
What a lovely thing to write! I am very touched, and so appreciative that you feel this way.

I have so hoped that my honesty and willingness to share my experiences is helpful to others. When I read a comment like yours, it makes me feel like I've truly had an impact.

Thank you, and hugs back at you!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
It's interesting that we all are interior people, isn't it? Thanks so much for your comment. I genuinely appreciate it.

Susan

Howard said...

I related to a LOT of what you wrote in this post, Susan. I also learned about Marja's depression so went over there to leave her some encouragement. Thanks for the word!

-Howard

Wellness Writer said...

Howard,
After reading your comment, I reread my post, and I can see why you'd relate. As you know, I love your essays, which are so very personal, and yet "also universal and [should be" of use to others."

I'm sure Marja will be delighted to hear from you!

Susan

preciousrock said...

Dear Susan,

I feel as if you wrote those first two paragraphs just for me. How wonderful to find someone who can fully relate to so many of my inner thoughts and experiences. Of course, you express them much more eloquently than I. I have really been enjoying reading your blog.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear preciousrock,
I'm really glad you feel that way. A part of me believes that the greatest commonality between some of us who either suffer from depression or bipolarity actually may be certain personality traits.

And there's nothing wrong with these traits (In fact, there's a lot right with them). But, we are a minority, which would make it far more difficult for us to deal with them--and with others whose frame of reference may be so different from our own!

I only wish researchers were studying these types of issues rather than focusing almost solely on medication.

And thank you for the nice things you've said about my blog. I genuinely appreciate it!

Susan