As much as we like to indulge in this fantasy, authors don’t create anything out of whole cloth. Like the patient on the analytic sofa, we fixate on particular stories and characters and themes because they speak to the fears and desires hidden within us. Our inventions inevitably take the form of veiled confessions.
J. D. Salinger didn’t write “The Catcher in the Rye” because he suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of his little brother. But he did conjure Holden Caulfield from the deepest part of himself, as a means of wrestling with his own anxieties about loss, madness, and the cruel deceptions of the adult world.
The beauty of the artistic unconscious is that it allows us to sneak up on our own intentions or to disguise them altogether. A few months before the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s life, a fan asked him to identify his central topic. As the author of 14 wildly inventive novels, Vonnegut might have cited the perils of technology or the corrosive effects of wealth or the moral tolls of war. Instead, he said this: “I write again and again about my family.”
“Why Talk Therapy Is on the Wane and Writing Workshops Are on the Rise” (New York Times, 3/25/12)
I think the toughest part of taking care of your kids all day when they’re 5 and 2 1/2 is that THEY NEVER STOP MOVING EVER.
Seriously, a perpetual motion machine, should one ever manage to be invented, would have nothing on us. We’ve created two.
I had a good day today,
a peaceful one,
and I am not owed that.
This fragile world is built on the backs
of suffering and grace
neither deserved, both meted out;
one creating the need for the other,
the way that surrendering to a struggle
so often is
the only real way through it.
I am not owed good days by this old world,
nor do I deserve good things from my life
simply by matter of being born into it;
this universe owes me nothing.
But still I can find these quiet moments,
or at least a way towards them,
and when that happens:
I can be grateful.