Those of you who follow my personal story; or have beta read the Tales From Purgatory books, my upcoming Other Place series, or The Story of a Girl Named Mike; know that the way imagination/delusion intertwines with reality in order to make magic is the underlying theme in my life and work. It’s a subject that fascinates me endlessly and runs at the core of my understanding of the world. In The Deathly Hallows, when Dumbledore said, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it isn’t real?” the phrase struck at my heart, because I knew exactly what he meant.
I know the idea that “dreams can come true” and that there is a sort of force, strengthened by belief, that can bring about changes in the real world, isn’t one that is unique to me. My church believes that prayer can bring about change, and that there is another world – the “Kingdom of God” – that exists just outside of and intertwined with our own; that we can get there through the sacrifice of Jesus, and that this glorious world will someday overcome the physical world and bring about an everlasting peace.
For most people, this is an abstract concept that doesn’t play much in their day-to-day life and decisions, even amongst those who purport to live by God’s rules for getting to this place (said rules and their interpretations varying from person to person).
For me, on the other hand, though I wouldn’t describe my understanding of this concept in religious terms, it is a very real concept. Things that happen “in my head” seem to have a tangible effect on the outside world and on my life. In my worst moments (few and far between, thank goodness), I am driven to frank psychosis, thinking that this effect is more drastic and sometimes uncontrollable than I generally believe. I say this, even though part of me believes some of the things I’ve experienced during psychosis are actually real. And at any rate, I do believe the concept itself – the reality of this alternate reality, or the force of belief – is very real, though it is impossible, of course, to be without doubts.
When life gives me a particularly rough turn, the force of my belief begins to evaporate and I find myself in a cold, bitter and senseless place. This, I know, isn’t a function of whatever mental illness I’m supposed to suffer from: everyone feels like this sometimes. All those things we thought we had, the life we thought we’d built – it turns out, those things didn’t belong to us, and that happiness can be taken from us in an instant. But just because it’s ethereal, doesn’t mean it wasn’t real to begin with.
That cold, senseless place frightens the hell out of me and makes me angry. The problem is, it seems like I have a harder time sheltering myself from it, building my castles in the sky, than most people. I think that’s because I’m not laying my foundations in the real world, trying to reach my dreams: I’m building them in my dreams, and trying to reach the real world.
Since I was a girl, my a lot of my behavior and decisions haven’t made sense to people. At some point in my adulthood, I realized that’s because I’m operating on slightly different principles than most. At first I tried to fight with myself about it, because I felt there was something wrong with me, an opinion that was shared by others. Many of those who know me and love me tell me that I need to get a handle on myself, get treatment for my bipolar and PTSD and whatever other things my brain is supposedly sick with. They tell me I need to grow up and start living in the real world.
But that isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve come to terms with the fact that “wrong” is subjective, and that there’s no point in my feeling that there’s something broken with me, because it isn’t fixable in any case. There is no pill that cures me of who I am. There may be pills that make me sleep more than 4 hours a night; ones that stop me from believing my best friend is invading my brain and giving me his toothache out of spite; they may be able to medicate the past from coming back to haunt me in bright, immediate flashes of feeling, taste and smell that make me react to present situations with a little more drama than is necessary. But pills won’t solve the underlying problem with me, and even the treatments for the scarier parts of my “conditions” don’t come without high cost.
When I discovered writing, I thought I’d finally found something that made sense to me, something that might allow me to find my place in the world and be accepted for what I am, rather than what I “should” be, according to the rules of the real world. It was a way for me to weave together dreams and reality and create something that might shelter me from the driving rain and hungry wolves. But just recently my foundations have been crumbling again and the elements are beginning to seep in. I’d had help in maintaining that structure while I tried to build it, and that person is no longer interested in helping, for various reasons.
There is a measure of how much a person is accepted in the real world, how much they are able to “make things work” on their own terms: money. Money measures this phenomenon every bit as accurately as the scales of centigrade, Fahrenheit and Kelvin measure temperature. The scales themselves may be human constructs, but the phenomena themselves are not; and the forces that affect one’s ability to make it in this world are every bit as chaotic as those that affect atmospheric temperature.
The nexus point of my imaginary world and the real one is this: marketing. If I could market my books, my editing skills, and myself better, I might make money at it and be able to salvage my structure and survive. But I’m horrible at it. This blog post – which most of you have quit reading by now – is one example of it. People like to be entertained (and I get that – entertainment is a worthwhile pursuit that I’m wholly in favor of), but I’m trying to communicate with the world on a level that might be a little too real to be entertaining and professional. I’m sure talking about my marital problems and battles with psychosis isn’t inspiring many to hire me as an editor (even if I say that editing people’s stories is something I love, and it keeps me “sane”), or to buy my books.
The problem is, I’m still struggling to make sense of things, and find my place. And while I try to push my books and my editing skills in a professional way – try to captivate people with one-liners, inspire them, urge them to give me money and leave me reviews – it just feels like I’m grasping at threads…I’m trying to knit my world and theirs together, and I’m not counting the stitches correctly. Maybe I was wrong all along: maybe the two worlds will never fit together. Maybe I’m out in the cold again.
I wish I had a team, like Katniss had Cinna, Haymitch, and Plutarch, to transform me into a propo that resonates with the world. But, as much as we all are The Chosen One in our own stories, most of us just aren’t Mockingjay material.
I’m going to keep trying, though, because – like I said – it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
So: buy my books, and hire me as an editor. Not as an act of charity, please, but because you believe that magic is real, and that perhaps we can share our magic and our worlds with one another.