I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be all of one piece. Like having one’s thoughts and words and actions in perfect alignment. Probably the only people who are perfectly connected are babies. When they’re uncomfortable or scared, they stiffen their bodies and cry. When they’re happy and relaxed, they wriggle and smile. But even babies learn pretty fast to pretend feelings they don’t have. By the time they’re six months old, babies give social smiles to people they don’t know very well, and save their real smiles for family and close friends.
Social smiles are just a way of being courteous and friendly, and I’m all for that. But I’ve known several people who had so many acts going, so many secrets and disparate identities, that their personalities had fragmented. People who had successfully juggled a lot of personas found themselves caught in profound confusion. They didn’t know who they were any more. Maybe they never did. In a panic, they get divorces or change jobs or abandon their families to go off and find themselves. Most often, they take their unhappy confusion with them, because it has become them.
In my writing classes, I always warn people that if they begin to write from their hearts, they will find it increasingly difficult not to speak from their hearts as well. In other words, they begin to tell it like it is. They stop keeping secrets from the world because they’ve written them. They stop pretending to be somebody they’re not because they’ve discovered in writing that their power and joy lies in expressing who they truly are.
So are writers more emotionally healthy than other people? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s
a giant step for a writer to experience the feeling that comes with writing true rather than writing dreck. The feeling is visceral, cellular, neural, a breakthrough that accidently happens once, twice, three times, and then is searched for deliberately and consciously. When it happens, sentimentality can no longer masquerade as depth, gore can no longer pretend to be the ultimate of horror, and vulgarity can no longer be substituted for realism.
It’s dangerous to be a writer. You start being real, and you’ll lose some acquaintances who need you to be phony. People will say you’ve become too full of yourself, that you’re putting on airs. If that’s true, then you’ve still got a way to go before you write from the heart. If it’s not true, then it means you’re being consistent in what you believe and think and say. Whether that’s pleasing to other people or not, it’s what wholeness is.