Writers have the fun job of unzipping their souls and spilling out the poetry of their lives to titillate the souls of the readers who pick up their stories.
Most writers, I imagine, drink a cup of courage before they begin showing, revealing, and dumping their ideas and emotions out on the page through characters and events. Recently, I was editing a nonfiction book and found that the writer had been locked away by her parents in a small anteroom so they–the parents–wouldn’t be bothered. Having children sometimes interferes with drug use and alcoholism: we wouldn’t want that now, would we? It horrified me but it was real and it was good and I was carried away. Carried away by the fact that it wasn’t happening to me but had happened to a young child of five or six. She unzipped and showed me. I was reminded momentarily of the three women recently found in Cleveland who had been harbored, tortured, and harangued for ten long years.
Readers make associations and are glad, internally, that it wasn’t them who endured a grisly gruesome event. Or, perhaps, the unzipping of a writer will allow for the reader who has been through a similar devastation a chance to heal knowing he or she isn’t alone during dark nights of the soul. Someone else has been there, too.
When I read Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, An Unquiet Mind, many moons ago, I was released from the bondage that I was the only person in the world who had been gang raped in the brain by bipolar disorder. She unzipped and she unzipped good. Years later, I had to unzip, too, when I wrote my third book about a character gone mad.
Our world is complex and painful and dark. But, when we let go as writers and readers and tell the bone truth about a difficult time or even a particularly joyful time, then the web of connection vibrates from author to reader, reader to author. We are lifted by each other.
Next time you go to write, think about sitting in your chair naked. There is a small invisible zipper at the top of your throat that moves down your body all the way to the floor. Tug at it. Inch by inch, slowly move it down to your belly and then see what flops out onto the page.
Whatever flops out is what I want to read.