From your father you get your role in the social world…if he’s not there [physically or emotionally] its almost impossible to relate effectively from where you are in your family to the outside world. (Campbell as qtd in Osbon 56)
Because of the family I was born into, I developed a weak and flawed persona. I was told and taught never ever to regard myself as having value, or significance. As a girl child in the sixties and seventies, I learned that girls were unnecessary while boys were. Though I exhibited an unusual amount of ability, intelligence, creativity, and strength, my male relations were valued more simply because they were male.
But, perhaps for me, the most damaging element of persona development occurred because of the abuse and neglect in my family- particularly from my father. Rather than learn how to “be in the world”, I learned to hide myself. I learned how to “not make waves” and to become like a piece of furniture. I learned, quite effectively, how to become invisible. The blessing from this, though, was it allowed me to find the deep, rich land of my inner self necessary for creative writing. But of course, as an adult, it left me basically dead in the water when it came to wanting to become a “writer in the world”.
Most writers, I believe, are compelled to go down into the dark depths of the mind. They often reappear, much like a subterranean creature, squinting in the light, incredibly uncomfortable with all the hub-ub of life going on around them. Because of this, writers are often scoffed at as stereotypical introverts- as if being introverted is some kind of social disease.
But, I would like to premise that writers are gifted with a paradoxical amount of chutzbah. Think of this: writers, no matter how “introverted”, endure way more than their fair share of rejection, again, and again, and again, and…well you get the idea. Stephen King reportedly received 400 rejection letter before he was “successfully” published.
Chutzbah. What a word!
shameless audacity; impudence-
|synonyms:||audacity, cheek, guts, nerve, boldness, temerity-( Source: googledictionary.com)
The idea of “branding” ourselves as writers can seems as counter intuitive as a fire fighter lighting up a smoke after battling a fire. We are creative beings, not CEO’s. Our job is to create. This requires not so little amount of vulnerability ( and chutzbah). And, we are expected to “brand” ourselves in order to a the appeal to readers and attract the attentions of would be agents and publishers. I believe this is why many writers “hire” a nom de plume. It acts as kind of body guard, and shock absorber in the outside world so we can get on with the business of creating.
Here is where the persona, and an understanding of how it functions, can help. As mentioned in a previous post, the persona functions as our identity in the outside world. It is how we see ourselves, but also how we present ourselves to society and the world. Part of the persona is learned and developed through our culture and family. But, part of it remains individual. And, like a changing of clothes for a specific social occasion, so can we change our persona. We can shape-shift.
As the persona is intended to be our spokesperson – our press conference manager – we can hire and fire at will. If it is not working, change it. The persona begs for archetypal activation. It can be our paladin, or guardian angel, or super hero, or it can be our ambassador, or mediator, or agent. It all depends on hiring the right person for the job.
In the double pointing star [Star of David- and also the sign of the IV Chakra], the upward pointing triangle is our “aspiration”, while the downward pointing star is “inertia”…we can experience the downward pointing triangle in two ways: as an obstacle, or the means in which we make our ascent (Campbell as qtd in Osbon 155).
I would postulate that many, many people who write, and who write well, never get their stuff “out there” because of the problem of how to be present in a way that is tolerable to the fragility of the creative process, and the authentic self, let alone ego. It seems fake and pompous, perhaps, to promote ones self. To brand ones self, so to speak. But, this is a necessary function of the persona to begin with. So, why not? Why not create the persona who can speak for you? Who can sell your stuff? And, who can protect and shield you from the influx of the outside world? That’s its job: to protect that which matters most. You.
The persona. We all got one, learn to utilize it! Chutzbah!
Thanks for reading.
Source: Campbell, Joseph, Diane K. Osbon (editor). Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. Harper Perennial, 1991.