Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Friday, 21 September 2007

A question of identity

Identity is a big thing. I’m not sure if it’s more of an issue for a writer than an actor for example but then I’ve no idea what an actor feels. I do get the desire to want to be someone else because I’ve never been especially happy with the person I am. From my early teens though I identified with being a writer but that was always an idealised self, my alter ego, my version of the superhero. I was always acutely aware however that there was a “real me” on the inside and it was important that he not get allowed to take control of the writing process.

A not unreasonable assumption many make is that writing, by its very nature, has to be autobiographical. Not so. Not in my case anyway. Only now I’m working on my fifth novel have I come close to anything like that and what I’m finding is that it’s much harder than I would have ever imagined. It’s uncomfortable to write and the only way I can seem to cope is to fictionalise it, to push it further and further away from reality.

What do you look for when you read a book? A hero or a predicament at least you can identify with? I look back on things I wrote years ago and I’m not sure I could write them now. Even with all the evidence piling up on the shelf behind my desk to substantiate my claim to fame I still feel uncomfortable referring to myself as a writer. I wonder whose rubber stamp I need planted on my life to make who I am valid.

If I was writing now it would help. By that I mean the physical act of writing which I love. Thinking about writing – which I know is a necessary part of the process – doesn’t seem to cut it. Nor does writing about writing.

Who-I-Am is a place I keep revisiting. It’s somewhere I’m continually drawn to and I wish I never had to leave but it’s not home yet. I’m planning to retire there one day but not today.


zenartnothing said...

A wise man told me that all writers are liars.

Making a poetic assertion myself and surely creating a lie in the process...

Prose is praise for the self.

We endeavor to look smart, no matter how humble we may feel, we get conceited if only to share wisdom, data, entertainment, or self-effacing observations.

See? I am trying so hard to do that now.

No wonder the crisis of identity.

Jim Murdoch said...

It's supposed to be easy to become conceited but thankfully I never have. Lack of success has its pluses I suppose. It's saved me from myself.

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