IdentityIdentity constructionWriting

Climbing a mountain……..

Today, tonight and tomorrow mark the Winter Solstice. This is a deeply significant time for me as the shortest day and the longest night mark the peak of my year. The difficult march up the slopes of the year since last summer have been woven through with happiness and synchronicity. I asked and I was given, although not always in the exact guise I had requested. It’s all about interpretation in the end. But reach the top of the mountain of 2008 I did, and from here it’s downhill!

Tonight I will celebrate with my elder daughter and tomorrow with my younger daughter, and raise a glass to my son, wherever he is. I’m not sad, this year has been good to me in many ways. I finished two novels, became Chief Executive, graduated with my doctorate, became a Chartered Psychologist, lived with Eric for another wonderful year. I said goodbye to Kathleen, I found Anthony, I lost some virtual friends but found others and completed the transition away from MMU to a full professional life. I visited many places and met interesting people, conducted and have taken part in studies and found ways to heal myself.

Most of all I was able to develop my creativity. A large part of my life had been hidden in the shadows, but this year I managed to drag out the artist in me, albeit kicking and screaming, and lay my skills is front of (sometimes mocking) eyes. I have written stories since I was a small child, but this year I have fast-tracked and linked my writing skills to a project that has, in turn, empowered my life. Some people have stood in my dining room and asked me what I will do with all the acrylic art I have painted over the last twelve months. The most popular question is ‘Will you sell it?’ When I tell people I have written three novels, the immediate response is ‘Are they published?’ I have tried to analyse the question that bites everyone writer and artist: ‘What will happen if I never get published, never sell a piece of art?’ Do I care?

Yes and no. Yes, because everyone would like the validation of seeing their book in Waterstones or their picture exhibited or on someones wall. No, because if you look below the financial aspirations and vanity, which lie just on the surface of the self, reaching out for interpersonal contact and endorsement from ‘other’, there is a part of us all that experiences and enjoys the flow of creativity. If I never sold a novel, would I still write.

In identity construction, Mead contextualises the identity as constructed through a looking glass model of social identity, where the I (personne) is the inner self who experiences and the me (moi) is the social self that relates and internalises. As we know, there can be multiple ‘me’ and we experience this as roles. Mauss explained this as the ‘moi’ wearing a ‘social mask’ for each role. Overlaying this onto writing, the writer ‘moi’ is the social relationship between me and the rest of the world, publishers, writers, agents, reviewers, beta readers, interested onlookers, the one that seeks social validation and internalises this as either success (publication) or failure (non-publication). The writer ‘personne’ is the internal process of writing which produces feeling such as being in ‘the zone’ and flow, without any suggestion of failure or success, just a sense of ‘being’ a writer.

Such a division is important when considering how much ‘failure’ one should endure before one gives up on one’s creative endeavours. It is important to note that whereas moi may be caught up in the illusionary social world of status and money, the more valuable experience is the authentic personne inside. Both are fluid and interactive aspects of identity construction, but moi is largely out of our control and in the hands of other people and institutions, and consequently highly changeable and transient and therefore impermanent. The personne is more stable, as we have direct control if we are mindful. So before we internalise ‘failure’ or indeed ‘success’ it might be worth evaluating how moi has stumbled upon these malleable concepts, and if they actually relate to personne or are just abstract ideas relative only to the measurement of moi against someone else?

Next year I intend to be more mindful. My focus will be on ‘being’ a writer. I still want to be published, indeed I feel I deserve to be published, but the separation of the moi and personne for me will hopefully ring fence the suffering of critique and rejection for what it is, the pining of moi for status and money. My focus and mindfulness will surface my personne to deal with moi!

Happy Winter Solstice, I’m off the light the Yule log now!

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