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Identity, Where Art Thou?

You have been silenced in the past, whether by authoritative figures, preconceived ideas or loved ones. It's inevitable for most children to believe what they learn in school. Textbooks may not always be as objective unless you have the occasional good teacher who encourages you to think for yourself or guides you toward your passion. I found my passion through desperation—or rather through fiction and journal writing because I had no means of communicating effectively with anyone. Spoken words just weren't my thing. It could've been the languages I grew up with or the environment. Or people. When I talk, things tend to come out the wrong way, or people misunderstand or misinterpret what I try to express. Whether it's ambivalence, irrationality, INFJ or something else, the truth is you're not meant to be understood. You will eventually see why. I kept my mouth shut and sought meaning and connection in fiction.

Reuben Negron, 'Untitled (Marley)', 2010

New York based Reuben Negron, best known for his realistic watercolour images, has had his image 'Untitled (Marley)' removed repeatedly from Google+ even after posting the images with text reading:


"NOTE: This model is demonstrating modesty by covering herself - NOT performing a sex act"



But I still admire those with the gift of using spoken language to express what they think—comedians in particular because they talk more truth than politicians. What is civilisation good for if symbolic communication systems—like literature or comedy—are frowned upon because you chose a way to scrupulously express yourself? It doesn't necessarily have to stand for what you believe in if the goal is to provoke a reaction. In fact, that's the perfect way to judge people—by measuring their sensitivity level and seeing how they react to things. With how pc everything has become—collective beliefs and activism bullshit—division among people is more common than ever. While there is still some room for satires, most pc people have given up on comedy. Almost everything has become offensive to society. You are not allowed to think for yourself anymore because social media determines and portrays everything.


Whether you are far left or far right, don't suffocate your individuality. You may join a revolution that doesn't define you just to get a sense of belonging. Speak for yourself, but not as part of a crowd. When they ask you, "Whose side are you on?" your answer should be clear.


In literature, you are on nobody's side but your own. Even when inspired by others, you write for yourself, but the reader can interpret the story any way they want.


Motivation


I was ignorant when I self-published my book because I didn't consider people's tastes or sensitivity levels. I thought it was suitable for readers of romance, fantasy and horror all the same without thinking that transgressive was a genre of its own. I am a literary fiction writer who walks slightly on edge with her choice of themes and how she portrays them. And in the eyes of some readers, it is too much to bear. Later, I started telling people my book had transgressive elements because I know of some who had to put it down because certain scenes were too graphic. Not only was I touching upon sensitive topics, but I also manifested them in scenes that weren't appropriate for the average reader. Most of my close friends won't even finish the book or tell me a single word about what they made of it. And that's ok. Important is that I never doubted myself and my way of expressing how I feel. It is how I write. It is how I uncover my truth.


My former professor had encouraged me to do life writing during my master's degree, believing there was great potential. But I never chose that module because I wanted to focus on fiction without realising that my fiction needed work. I wrote stories like David Lynch makes movies. This is not to say that he's horrible; on the contrary, your heroes can inspire you but copying them makes you an ultra-loser.


My short stories were incoherent due to plot and referencing problems. The reason for that was simple; I barely put myself in the stories; therefore, there wasn't much to discover except for puzzles that no one cared to solve. Although you write for yourself, you must make it accessible for the reader to comprehend. It took me a while to understand that. I used to journal about myself non-stop but never thought the realm of fiction would offer a vaster ground of opportunities if I combined the two.


My tutor saw strength in my semi-autobiographical work and urged me to build on that. I remember him staring at my novel's first draft without having read the whole thing except for the opening and some other extracts.


"Figure out what you want, and that will be your protagonist's motivation," he said.


It was awkward because he and I talked about my protagonist's need to feel orgasm just before he said that. Wasn't that motivation enough?


I wrote about a female heart surgeon plagued by a broken heart, sexual frustration, trauma, and struggle with absurdism. I was too stupid to see that what he said was directed at me, not my protagonist. He felt I was not confident enough to tell the whole story about my emotions and inner journey. As a non-fiction writer, my professor was good at guiding fiction writers towards finding their own voices. The only way to make that work was to throw a big honest chunk of myself into that story. I didn't have to be a surgeon to make it work. Sometimes, who you want to be is who you already are. It adds to your identity as a whole.


What ultimately saved the novel was freeing my suppressed emotions that had accumulated for many years. I just hadn't dared to share or examine them creatively. I released these emotions to the surface via my protagonist, who manifested them through extreme behaviours. As long as they rang true to me emotionally, it was ok.


This is how fiction saves. Fiction is all about channelling your emotions and using your creative strengths to control negative urges. It gives your life a momentary purpose and is also a means of protecting your mental health. It is your journey and nobody else's.


You are technically passing on your hurt to a fictional character who isn't real, but a part of your cleanse. You happen to get attached to that "product" that has made you believe there is a purpose to who you are and what you do. It's a big deal for the writer, but the reader couldn't care less.


I didn't want to cut myself; I never did. It may sound selfish, but cutting others is easier. My original channel of release was through journaling. To most people, it was more self-pity than a cry for help. People aren't you, so they won't ever know, nor do they care how you feel. But if you tell a good enough story for entertainment purposes, they might give you another try.


The way my protagonist cuts open her patients on the operating table and talks to them symbolises my inability to deeply connect with others on a mutual level. What does it mean? I want nothing more than for people to open up to me, but many won't, and I'm not much of a surface person, so I have to cut them open. It's the only way for you and me to communicate honestly. That said, I used to open up too much in the past and scared people away. They thought I expected them to make it all ok for some reason, which wasn't true. It was just my way of showing no shame in sharing my history. That was me back then, but now I couldn't give a shit. Still, deep, honest conversations are hard to come by.


Some people argue that surgery is a physical assault. Perhaps my spiteful side really wants to hurt people, but I never do it. Instead, I find myself tearing holes elsewhere, letting negative emotions rise through stories because no one wants to read them in the form of a blog anymore. I continued manoeuvring those bad life decisions into fiction where they would have a better chance of survival. I made them more meaningful without focussing on what a slave I really am to myself.


Sokut is the last anthology from the book series Creed of Slaves. This anthology aims to Dare you to Share what you've been hushed for decades. Free yourself by writing what they don't want you to write. This is a freestyle fiction nonfiction, so no specific format or style is needed. Dare to say is about expressing freely who you are, what you do or believe that once counted as abnormal, taboo, or sin. Submit here if you DARE!

Reading/Writing


When you're young, you will always seek some form of refuge from reality. Who you are is how you feel, and it can be overwhelming if you don't know how to express it. When I read American Psycho for the first time, I was going through a phase where I wholeheartedly hated someone and had no appropriate way of alleviating that pain. But then, each chapter brought upon a sick satisfaction that made me feel better. I imagined someone's head on a stick or what it would've been like to castrate them myself since they wouldn't do it when I told them to.


Simply reading that book had helped silently release the anger that would've otherwise consumed me negatively. Fiction has the power to express you in the most savage ways possible so that you wouldn't necessarily need therapy because you're going through your own therapeutic moment in your head. It's a way of dealing with trauma and other difficulties internally. I don't write like Ellis, but he inspired me and gave me the courage to tell my own story. I would never deny my feelings or lie about who I am and how I see myself. Perhaps that's why I adore semi-autobiographies with a subtle and passive way of showing emotions. Think Hemingway walking through the rain or the day Bukowski emptied his last bottle.


I also recommend reading from unreliable narrators' perspectives because they help you understand the current world around you, whether you're reading from the point of view of a detached sociopath or a compulsive liar. If you don't see the truth, you're in great danger.


I learn something new each time I write about myself, which can be confusing, as though I were many things and have to make up my mind. Or I have always been that way, but I'm viewing it from a different perspective. It's confusing for the superego to comprehend when the Id keeps throwing in new details from a depth you haven't revisited in a while. You may not even know it's there sometimes. This is when writing can be a form of meditation because every trauma has a root; it's deeply entombed and contributes to your greatest fears unless you dig it up and face it.


I used to submit short stories to magazines that charged reading fees. No publisher ever accepted my writing which didn't surprise me because my writing was shit. Up to this day, I don't think it's spectacular, but I try. Often, I'm glad my ideas and stories compensate for my writing. Some writers need longer to grow. The common first trap they fall into is conformity, such as attempting to write like bestselling authors. There's nothing wrong with imitating your favourite author if they inspire you, but it's important to find your own voice—go and dig deeper, locate that one thing that had a significant impact on you and made you who you are today. That's what you're here to write about. Though when I realised that writing was the only therapeutic method I had, I began to hate it.


The readers of my old blog used to judge the content for being painfully dark. Many journal keepers moved online to explore and connect when blogging became hip in the early 2000s—whether you were on Blogger, LiveJournal, DiaryLand or MySpace. One must say that it was before social media's big rise that it was easier to connect with people. Most digital friends I made were from that era. I always found that the first batch of millennials had some Gen-X tendencies but with a more balanced and open outlook on life and art. Nothing was offensive as long as it expressed how you felt, and they would appreciate your honesty and input.


Before I started using tampons, I'd asked my readers for advice on how to insert those damn things. While all the girls shied away, a guy taught me how. But time has changed; blogging is now about marketing content and converting readers into potential customers. There is no intimacy. Unless you're a famous influencer, no one gives a shit about your life blogging anymore. But that doesn't mean it's time to stop.


Also, sensitivity readers shouldn't put their hands on fiction. Fiction writers should be allowed to reimagine a world that's not fact. Despite recent events, you can't boycott or ban books by Conrad or Lovecraft, not even Dostoevsky. What does Dostoevsky have to do with any of it? Who has the right to ban art and literature?


Not many people get the point of satire or dark comedy, but these writers' talents are to die for! Say what you don't mean if it is a joke! But whether other people get it is another question.


To conclude


I wanted to make my parents proud pensioners, so why did I selfishly choose writing, especially when I can't be a bestseller? There are more opportunities in YA and romance, no matter how overrated and popular these genres are. I wanted to prove that rom-coms were easy to write, but I was wrong. If you can't accommodate constant feel-good vibes (no matter how hard you try), you just can't write shit like that. It is the same when people tell you to write kids' books because it is profitable. But those are people who do not understand the point of writing fiction.


What you write must define you. Knowing who you are would be the easiest thing if you didn't have to constantly look for something that inspires you or rings true to you. This is what sucks about being sentient. You want to put your energies towards something that matters, even if satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment only last for a few moments. It makes you wonder if this kind of sensation is even worth it. I don't know how meaningful things are when your identity comes in shreds and fragments, requiring you to spend a tremendous amount of time putting pieces together. By that, I mean writing. But at least it gives you something to do. The longer you work on it, the more it will matter to you.



Amazon book link: Heart like a hole

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