A Native of an Unknown Country

From Archetypes for Writers: using the power of your subconscious by Jennifer Van Bergen:

I am talking about your writing. I’m talking about your subject, your characters, your story: what belongs to you and no one else. These all reside in your subconscious. They already exist and you already “know” them, but at the same time, you don’t know them: you may search for others to tell you how to find them, how to write the novel you want to write, how to tell your story. As Proust wrote in The Captive: “Every artist is a native of an unknown country, which he himself has forgotten…but remains all his life attuned to.”

Part of the reason why people both know and don’t know their own subjects is the principle that you must find outside material to substantiate everything inside of you…The other part of the reason is simply that it’s in your subconscious. Things can emerge from and disappear back into the subconscious, like ghosts.

Each of us has a “little life” – a life that is less than that which we are capable of understanding. Yet, writing is not about NOT having that little life. It is about accepting that little life in ourselves and in others, and giving oneself and others permission to be human and experience all those “little” things, but at the same time, watching oneself and others and noting one’s own and others’ patterns and rhythms, and loving oneself and one’s life, such as it is, and others and their lives, as they are.

The big problem is that in trying to embody ourselves, we change what we are into something we aren’t, something we think we ought to be, etc., and we lose the simple being-ness of being ourselves. So the trick is to be ourselves, to read ourselves accurately, and to transcribe ourselves as we are, while still being (and not losing our sense of self). This is as true of our own selves as with other selves, other persons we observe.