As part of ACPA creator Kathy Mac's "Wording Around with Prose" webinars, ACPA managing editor Jamie Kitts responds to their chosen text for lesson 2.1: Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. This blogpost covers Chapter 3: "Writing as a Therapeutic Process."
Last year I started therapy again for the first time in a few years. I'd made an appointment with a new therapist because I was facing a new problem. In our first session, that therapist recommended something to me, and I'll never forget how much it made me laugh: she recommended I read some Slavoj Žižek.
A certain prof at STU's English Department really, really loves Žižek's work, and I'd never heard Žižek brought up in any context outside of school. So, I looked at my new therapist and I asked her something like, "I know we just met but what about me says that I enjoy the very particular misery that is contemporary theory? Is it the beard?"
I bring this up because one of the texts my therapist recommended was Žižek and Sophie Fiennes's documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. One of Žižek's conclusions touches on desire, and it struck me so hard when I first heard it that I wrote it down:
"Desire is a wound of reality. The art of cinema consists in arousing desire, to play with desire. But at the same time, keeping it at a safe distance, domesticating it, rendering it palpable. We are haunted by alternate possibilities of ourselves. More real than real -- cinematic fiction."
Louise DeSalvo touches on desire in writing in a way which immediately made me think of that Žižek quote. DeSalvo speaks specifically of "thwarted desire" as a force that can be neglected but not diminished. It strikes me that desire is not spoken of in either text as something we can consciously manipulate within ourselves, only act upon. Given the direction this chapter takes and how DeSalvo links tragedy and writing as a means of healing, I think what both Žižek and DeSalvo are actually talking about is not merely desire, but agency -- perhaps as an implicit undercurrent of desire.
So, I find myself in conflict with the takeaway message at the end of this chapter. I've been obsessed lately with an album called Terraformer by Thank You Scientist. There's a song on that album called "Son of a Serpent" that I keep coming back to. I find these lines, "But I'm sure there's a place / To bury the old me and start anew," really appealing. DeSalvo ends chapter 3 on words from Henry Miller, about how "it was not life but himself from which he had been fleeing." And while I agree that internalized hatred is essentially denying your true self, I also don't really want to regain that old self. I don't think I ever want to be him again. I would much prefer burying him, even if that means making myself my own burial ground.
The assignment in this chapter is to write a letter, to structure it around an old childhood story, and see if it can be used to outline a longer work. I think I'm going to write it to my past self.
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