I see that in bringing my writing out people might hold mirrors up and want things but I am going to stick to my guns. This sentence may not make a lot of sense to anyone who has never had their creativity co-opted. I will reference childhood again here even though 'get over it' is what a harsh critic might say. My experience is that we don't get over very difficult childhoods, we just get through them.
This business of getting through can make a person by the way. Then, once made, we don't have to reference childhood endlessly or even blame our blameless parents.
One side of that union got pregnant and then there was a baby on the way. I like the idea that as pre-babies we know everything. We know everything and upon arrival we become a blank slate. This applies to both happy childhoods and those of us who incarnated into trouble.
Our parents are blameless.
At the same time, having your creativity co-opted can start back around toilet-training days. It is essentially being interfered with, having your private space punctured and then as you grow up and uncover potentiality it is about people reaching in to grab whatever you make. If the people grabbing are parents it can be brutal.
Never mind that the developing child is frightened. For those of us who were trying to nurture a secret garden it was unsafe.
So now in adulthood the co-opting of my output is not easy for me to tolerate. I infinitely prefer to write it my way - and release it when I am ready.
(God only knows what my blameless mother did around toilet training.)
Fast forward then to yesterday when this defence in me got triggered:
A smart and kind client of mine saw my blog The Barbados Papers, liked it and tried perhaps to steer me in a more sensational way. His suggestions were good and if I were a different kind of writer I might study his example.
What did happen is I dreamt uneasily.
Much of what I write - Barbados and otherwise - is dramatic but not more dramatic than the truth. What I am trying to do with my writing is stick to my guns, in capital letters.
I hope to offer felt experience which is deeper than description and if it takes you there then great. I don't want to dish dirt and I feel unhappy fabricating. I can fictionalise which is different - and that keeps everyone safe - but if the ratio of love to rage was 7 to 100 then that is how I am going to tell it.
I don't want the extra tragedy of a house fire - unless there was one.
However, there is sticking to your guns and there is setting them down. I don't want to miss any opportunities. When my publisher does choose me (starting to look for one next month) I will completely unholster in their presence.
As a creative artist and a social creature though I have two horrors:
Superficiality is one. The heartbreak of it. After my childhood I feel that I cannot bear a superficial life where what is under the water and important never gets said. I would rather be in trouble and on the edge of things than muffled on a couch in suburbia. The twin horror I shy from - and it is the flip side of the same coin - is sensationalism.
The former is the main reason I left Facebook.
Mainstream culture can be wonderful but only if it doesn't descend and become crass. I am not fascinated by someone willing to vomit on stage or allow a camera into their life 24/7. I actually find engagement with this dilutes my power.
The place in me that I write from - that essential Jeannie Bréhaut-ness - is an attic room with a window that I have tried to keep safe. I would rather not publish and not be read at all than get sullied by stage vomit.
It isn't always an easy dynamic to work with.
When I was a much younger woman I wrote an erotic short story based on a relationship I had. The story was a role play between two women where one was play acting the little girl and the other was playing the little girl's Dad.
They had sex in character.
In the story - and in real life - neither woman was an incest survivor. I said as much very clearly. Sure there were bitter-sweet moments (the girl was repairing something) and moments of reckoning (the Dad wished at times that she was really a man) but the tone of the piece and what was offered up was joyful.
I showed it to a couple of friends in the UK and one said 'Amazing but I can't believe you wrote it down'. I wondered then if it was too much - but for me at that time it was a beautiful story.
I sent it to some publishers in the UK who knew me and they said sorry but we can't. I felt both impatient and embarrassed.
Then I checked in with myself:
Does the story ring true?
Was it written from love?
Have I made it clear this is deep archetypal fantasy?
After that I saw a US call for submissions in an erotic magazine and I sent my story to New York.
Less than one week later the New York publisher phoned me.
I was 27 years old, living in a studio flat in Brondesbury and ever since I was a little girl I had wanted to write. Even after all the mish-mash of childhood. This New York publisher said they loved my story and if I would write eleven more they would publish a book.
I said no. I remember the no, it was resounding.
I had one erotic short story not twelve. I wanted my first full-length published work to be a literary novel. Also my father was still alive and I wanted something I could at least show him.
I didn't yet understand that you can allow people to commission work and then have the truth shine through even within someone else's framework.
Years later I looked for that New York publisher - I am remembering the name Sceptre or Crown - but that publishing house seemed to have closed down and vanished.
Now at age 53 I understand fully that it is enough to be 'brought to book' - and then from there you can work miracles.
So the guns I stuck to at 27 have been spun western-style and gracefully set down. I am ready for that commission.
Even if it requires following guidelines and meeting someone else's word count. I still don't do superficial though and sensationalising is out but we won't need it.
The two women in my erotic story remain heart-connected in this life. My former friend who liked it is a sweet part of my history. That flat in Brondesbury had a bed in the air and if I'd been able to keep it I would now be rich. The biggest 'if' is what would have happened if I had written that erotic book and not said no.
I remember a famous astrologer telling me once - I believe I was crying at the time - that everything that will ever happen to us has happened in some shape or form by the age of 28 - and then, again it comes around.
Where I am in India is so peaceful and beautiful that all seems possible now. Bring on that second coming.
NB: My erotic short story Louie Louise was eventually published in a now-defunct US magazine. I had a copy sent to me in the UK and I passed it around. Everybody who read it and saw me later just said 'Wow' or some derivative.