On Ego and Archetypes
On May 20th, 1937 George Orwell was shot through the neck. The bullet missed his carotid artery by a centimeter. He had come to Spain to fight fascism filled with what he termed “oversimplification,” and was fortunate to both avoid bleeding to death and to escape back to England. As he already suffered from tuberculosis before being shot it would take him a year to recover. Another twelve years would pass before he wrote 1984. But by the end of his life he became an icon of the twentieth century writer: passionate but broken, a survivor of his own recklessness, and masculine wit edged with performance. Like so many other dorm room heroes his image imprinted itself on my naive English-major heart in smoked sepia tones, an archetype for the romantic loss that came with a life in words.
This summer I have failed at every writing goal I have set. Trying to say something that matters to another human being is painful. This is not unique. All writers love the have done over the doing; the ascent over the climb. The fear of writing doesn’t come from the threat of being a mind exposed and imperfect on the page. It is born from the unspoken threat that one’s naked soul is, in the end, boring and all too common. The writer’s block we create is the search for the right way to say___ staked to the terror of it not meaning much in the end either way. Even our moderating, realistic Freudian egos fail to trust the next line makes a difference.
The Jungian authorial archetypes who informed my sense of what it means to be a writer never had the chance to indulge in metaphysical torpor though. Most were journalists who had to write to make a living. The chaos of crushing authoritarianism, of the moral and right beaten in the streets, and the terror of a world spiraling apart was ever-present. But they marched on, and hit the keys before they collapsed into one more try. There is a lesson in that I am trying to learn with so much in my life out of my control right now. This fall I could be in Roswell, New Mexico or Imperial, California or a dozen other places or nowhere. But I can control the next key I hit. And that is an “auspicious beginning” as the lead in Five Easy Pieces says. And the smallest do-overs can soothe the teeth marks on our hearts.
Today I signed the publishing contract for my punk rock coming-of-age novel Dream Kids. It will be released in March 2022 from Vine Leaves Press. It’s been four years since that book first tried to find its place in the world. Four years that I spent longing and thinking too much sublimed this morning with the invitation of a fresh auspicious beginning.
George Orwell “Why I Write”