A Challenge for Each of Us
Our personal identity is a constant challenge for each of us at all levels. We have to assume an identity in order to function but, in fact, we may have a very different identity from that assumed by other people. On a day by day basis we can’t trouble ourselves with these matters. Why would we? So we make an assumption and forge ahead.
The fact is that most of the time we probably think not at all about issues of identity unless we are challenged or face a problem. Sooner or later there will come an event when someone will ask “Who the hell do you think you are?” The question may mean the person is offended by a position we have taken or it may be a more fundamental challenge. If it is the latter then we truly are challenged.
Our Personal Identity
And sometimes we are perfectly clear about who we are but are in hiding. Others may think they know us but do not. There may be a fundamental mixture of comfort and pain.
Now, with these questions, if you are confused or feel lost then you thoroughly understand why we do not dwell on such questions most of the time. It is only at crisis point that we must attend.
And Then One Day…
And writers of fiction often come to the point where they wonder who their characters really are or where they came from. One of the reasons to have an outline and a firm understanding of the story is that it keeps us focused rather than letting us get lost in a fantasy related to a character’s identity or our own identity. Or is that the point of writing fiction? Can we expand our world and our identity? Are we often asking questions we want to explore.
Different Kinds of Meaning
The fact is that we who write fiction are almost surely not simply engaging in an interesting exercise or a labor of love. It seems likely that our engagement goes much deeper. As a psychologist I know that what we are doing is often a reflection of our personality. Those of us who engage in speculation and fantasy are different creatures from the people who focus on the glory of the turn of the phrase. In my dissertation I sought to answer the question “does the painter’s work reflect his personality?” The literature was full of unfounded psychoanalytic speculation.
But Carl Jung gave us a magnificent personality typology free of bias and authority. I found the personality of the painter was clearly displayed in his work. In discussing my dissertation results with artists I could see their focus and how their personality identity shaped their work. A study with writers would probably uncover some interesting differences. As I step back and look at the characters in my Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I see a melange of parts of me, people I would like to know and layers of identity issues.