Know Thyself - For Those who Want to Write
By Ken Mulholland
Know thyself. What does that mean and why should you investigate such a premise? Well, if you want to write about whatever you have in mind, it might not be a bad idea to find a beginning at the beginning. And that is?
You, the individual. The only person that can ever be you.
You are inimitable, unique. There can never be another you. Every thought, every action, every written word that you pen is yours. So how do you 'Know Thyself'?
Here are two simple ways of seeing yourself as all the world sees you, and you do not.
First off, you must grasp this truth. What you see and what you perceive of yourself is not what all others see and perceive of you; at least not in the physical sense. When you speak, you hear your voice as a familiar, everyday kind of voice; a voice that you have become used to over all your life. Your ears are tuned to your particular voice, and you are accustomed to the sound of it. But when you hear it back through, say, an answer phone recorded message, you are surprised and sometimes even shocked, because mostly you have never heard it as others always do.
Now, what do others see of the physical you? They see you as you seldom, if ever, see yourself. That's right. You rarely ever see yourself as all others: mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, child or friend do.
Why is that? Because you only see your own reflection. Through all your life, what you envision as your own image is reflected through a mirror, and it is untrue. What everyone else sees is the other you, the reverse of what you see.
To get the effect, stand facing a mirror with your brother or mother or whoever you know well. Look at their image. Yes it's slightly different to the way you normally see such a familiar face, and what you see of them in the mirror is what they see of themselves all the time, but as they look at you and see your reflection the same thing happens, they see a different you to the one they are used to, and yet that is the image you have always been familiar with. So what?
So my point is this. You go through your life knowing how you feel on the inside; all those hidden emotions that you keep to yourself, all those secret thoughts and fancies, desires, hopes, motivating forces belong solely to you, and unless you care to share them no one else will ever know they exist inside your head.
Now writing mainly is a solitary pursuit. Solitary, but not lonely. How could it be when your mind is at work, dealing with characters; people, animals, whole cultures, tiny communities, cities, countries and so forth. When you are deep within the realm of writing you are delving inside your self, conjuring up all manner of tales, of emotions, of actions both beautiful and violent; you are entering the perilous world of names where once it was considered far too dangerous to ever tell one's own name to a stranger, lest they use it to gain some advantage of power against you.
And the names of things do have a power of their own. As J.R.R.Tolkien so wisely indicated, the names of things such as grass and sky and tree and leaf, the colours, red of blood and fire, green of sea and forest, leap out and renew themselves in the eyes and minds of those who still can visualize them, who still have the inner consciousness to revisit the things that once were so fabulous, before we began to take them for granted, before we lost the ability to 'see' those things for what they really are, and not what others would have them become: mundane, tedious, plain, uninspiring, boring.
And even those words have power, the power to create a world where imagination lies defeated, and all has become stagnant and stale. And again, so what?
So, if you choose to write, you enter that perilous realm at your own risk; for not only will you encounter all the dangers, joys, disappointments and sorrows that inhabit such a realm, you will also encounter another peril that dwells not on the inside but on the outside of all your flights of fancy.
You will be tempted to write as secretly as you can, for fear that others will see and know, and in the seeing and knowing, will react in a way that sets you apart as someone slightly oddball.
"I should write a book one day." How many times has that been said? How many people that said it actually went on to do exactly that?
"She can't be a writer. She doesn't even look like one." How many times has that been said. I wouldn't have a clue, but I bet it's been thought a million times.
And the only way to break through to them that You can and do write, is to get on with it. Make a beginning and see it through. Get that first work into print. Note the reaction when you finally have an article published.
"Always knew he had it in him, doesn't look like a writer though." What does a writer look like? After all, we know what doctors are supposed to look like, and nurses and policemen and plumbers. But if you strip them naked, apart from having a lot of shivery people or an all out... Well, best we not go there. You do get my drift though?
Writers might have a vague identity with some fellow in a garret, scratching away at a parchment with his quill or some prim young woman, carefully rounding out the flowing script of her heart-throbbing romance in a corner of her cottage, but by and large, writers come in all shapes and sizes, strongly now in both genders, with a dazzling array of subject matter and styles.
Yet there is that persistent stereotype that dogs those who profess to write. It appears that only "other people" write, never You.
And yet You know yourself from the inside. You know what you want to do, no matter whether you're the local dog-catcher, that shivering, naked plumber, or the kid fresh into high school.
A writer by the name of Hendrik Willem Van Loon once said, 'Don't make the mistake of looking too eagerly for the so-called "soul" of the artist. He, or she, may have one, but you won't find it very different from the souls of the rest of us.
The Psychology of the artist is always a very fruitful subject of discussion among people who could not draw a line or invent a tune if they tried unto the end of their days.
The really good artist is likely to be a very simple fellow who is much too occupied with the work he is doing to worry about the psychological substructure of his immortal soul.'
n other words, You. While others are busy deciding who could or could not be a writer, You, if you would Know Thyself, must put that aside and make haste in your work.
Life is too short to wait. Every moment is another thought, another experience. And that must all come from the inner You.
The one others cannot tell is there. Until You show it to them. They may refuse to see it, attempt to ignore it or snigger at your efforts. You must not allow that to deter you.
Know Thyself. Know the ability that you have. It will only fail You, if You fail it. Write! Do it!