It was only when I fully exhausted myself and ultimately ceased writing, that I began to submit and really listen. Yes, I listened to my analyst. I listened to the many Jungian writers to whom my analyst introduced me. He recommended dozens and dozens of books that piled up like mini skyscrapers around my bedroom nightstand. I also began to soberly listen to my psyche (or soul) and heard it crying out in pain.
There's an old Norman Mailer quote: 'Writer's block is only a failure of the ego.'
Ego is the conscious attitude. My conscious attitude for most of my life was that I could suppress emotional and psychological pain and work through suffering, no matter what. Alcohol really helped me sustain that belief.
My Jungian analyst told me to listen to psyche. I started to ask psyche why it was no longer allowing me to write. What was it protecting me from? What was it trying to accomplish?
I've come to believe that I probably would have had a mental breakdown if I published a novel and went on book tour during early sobriety. I kind of had a well-concealed breakdown at the end of The Reason You're Alive book tour.
After a year of very intense multiple-times-a-week analysis, I started to write from the point-of-view of a man who has both lost contact with his Jungian analyst and has suffered a horrific tragedy. Consequently, Lucas Goodgame can no longer bring himself to enter the workplace where he once excelled. I found I had a lot to say about this—write what you know—and the words once again began to flow like magic.
This time, I didn't need to talk about my work over every single meal and during every walk. I was happily writing. There was nothing to discuss. I didn't ask Alicia to read any pages either, but when she eventually got her hands on a complete We Are the Light rough draft, her laughter and then tears let me know that I finally had something.
Psyche shut down my ability to write so that I would do the thing I needed to do most in the world—know the source of my emotional pain and, ultimately, know myself.
Self-knowledge is medicinal, my analyst has taught me.
To write again, I had to not write. At the time that message made as much sense as, You must stop breathing in order to live. But I've come to see that writing is often about submission—letting go of what ego wants and serving the needs of the story, whatever they may be, no matter where they take you.
And now here we are. All of us. Once a month. The words keep coming.
We've had some delivery problems. If you ever don't see the M.P.L. in your inbox, please check your other email folders and then drag the M.P.L. back into the inbox. Some say it might help if you add this address to your contacts. It's a bit of a mystery that we are working on. But I will definitely be here on the 21st of every month.
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