On Being the Night
This is the story of the most emotionally terrifying moment of my life, and its starts with me, being a writer.
Ever since I can remember, I have considered myself to be a writer. “Writer” is the word that sustained and defined my soul. No matter what I was studying, despite whatever I was working on, I always knew it would be temporary, because at my core, I was a writer. It’s the one thing I KNEW I was good at and where I did not feel like an impostor.
Writing was the only thing I could immerse myself in for hours. When I was writing, everything else faded away. All noise, all thought. It was just me and the words of a story that sometimes, I am sure, I was not even creating, but listening to from a faraway place.
While I was writing, nothing else mattered.
Writing saved me from insanity, from sadness and despair. It also focused my joy and energy.
Writing and being a writer was everything.
This is the story of why I am no longer a writer.
Some months ago, I told my husband, “You know, it’s time to face reality. It’s time to accept that I am not really an aspiring writer, but a failed one. I have been trying to sell my stories for years. Heck, I have been trying to FINISH my stories for years. It’s just not going to happen. I need to face it and move on.”
And my husband, being the man he is, answered “Don’t. Don’t you ever believe this. I know you can do this. Dreams are not to be given up. And I know your talent. I work not only for our family but so that you can pursue this. I don’t want to hear this again; please go on.”
So I kept on working. And loving him even more.
But by January so many things had happened. Donald’s Trump’s election had thrown me into deep despair (from which I recovered thanks to this interview with a Buddhist monk). I had come up with yet again another scheme to “create” a new business (I have gone into bankruptcy three times already!) and decided to stop before I even started… I tried and failed, again, to get an agent. And I was thinking how to break the news to my loved one that I could not really bear the sadness of not “making it” anymore. I swear that if I had gotten one more rejection letter (or silence, which is WORSE), I would have gone insane.
Stories stopped coming to me.
For the first time in my life, I could not write at night.
And I remember clearly that the day I was about to tell everyone “I am quitting.” I saw a four-minute motivational video on Facebook. One of those videos that do not really say anything new, but for some reason, this one REALLY stuck with me.
The speaker (XX) said, “We have no limitations; we are addicted to them.” And, “You know, we are in crisis; deep down we know everything is going to be OK. So what would happen is we could stay and work from that place of ‘deep down’ all the time.” And even MORE important, he said, “We humans need to know, to know… but we need to fall in love with NOT knowing.”
I pondered this the whole day.
That night, I went to a friend’s house in Santiago, and on the forty-five minute ride back home, I could feel that I had reached a crossroad. Don’t ask me how I knew; I could just feel energy moving around me like a tide. Now, now, now.
So I pulled over to the side of the highway. And I tried to allow space for these thoughts. I remembered then the words of one my teachers: “YOU, YOU need to be the night. You think too much, you do too much, you pretend to guide your life, to know what you are. YOU need to stop and be the night. For within the night and its absolute darkness, there lies all possibilities. Dreams are born from nothing, from darkness. Be the night.”
I looked out. There was a dark sky. And somehow it seemed to me that my teacher’s words were more or less the same as the ones from the speaker in the video.
“Be the night,” I whispered to myself.
I had no clue HOW to do that. But as I looked at the sky, I had this very clear thought: “Stop considering yourself a writer.
Let that go, and allow yourself to not know what you are.”
I wish I could say it was as simple as that. But as soon as I thought this, I went into deep anguish. I started gasping, and I felt my chest tightening up. (This had never happened to me before!) And I felt as if my soul was being torn in two.
“Don’t, don’t let this go.” I felt/heard. (Yes, I did think I was having a distinctive case of “Gollumness” there.) “Do not do this to us. If you are not a writer, everything, all these years, all the work, will be in vain. Everything you have done will be a mistake, and you will have wasted it all.”
I tried to think, but everything was anguish. I felt myself crying. I felt myself thinking, “I cannot do this. If I do this, there’s nothing, nothing…” But that night my friend had called me fearless. And I drew courage from that thought. I breathed deeply. I closed my eyes. I searched for myself within the cries of pain.
And I said, out loud: “I am not a writer.”
I could hear my own conviction. I knew, that in that moment, I had stopped being one.
What happened next, I don’t know if I can explain. The cries of anguish went quiet, not because they went away, but because they were silenced by despair… and the loss of all hope.
It was a desperate, excruciating silence.
I stayed with it. I went deeper into my conviction. “I don’t know who I am.”
I fought terror only because this place had an eerie calmness to it.
I was the night.
I was in a deeply dark space, and there was nothing there. It was as if all of me had been erased. And for a moment, there was nothing to replace it.
I was darkness.
And then I heard myself again, but this time it was deep voice from within, the voice of my true self coming from that place where everything is born, saying: “It’s true. You have been wrong. You are not a writer.”
Anguish. And the feeling of being hit with pain, dull and unbearable. To tell the truth, I don’t know how I managed to stay there.
And then I heard:
“You are wrong. Writing is only a medium. Writing is not who you are; it’s a way to channel what you are. You are not only a writer. For you are a storycrafter.”
And then, I felt everything falling into place. Millions of little pieces of my life, recalled from memory, came back: the only storyteller I had ever heard, more than twenty years ago; me learning to draw so that I could illustrate my stories; me taking all those video direction classes in university, taking TV script classes; my children listening to my stories….
I felt as If I was being reassembled.
I am not only a writer, I thought. For writing is only a way to get my stories out there. The slowest way, in fact. The one I do best, but in which I am ever a perfectionist, so nothing ever gets finished.
And stories get trapped inside because I can never write them fast enough. And those stories had created a wall, and pain. I needed to get them out of me somehow. To ease the pain, to make the energy flow. Get those stories out, in writing, in video, illustrating them. Crafting each one in a different, unique way.
I breathed again. And instantly, I was flooded with ideas… sharing ideas, story ideas, illustrations.
This flood has not stopped.
So this is what I am doing right now.
I am crafting stories. Telling them to the camera, and to you. I am setting up a video storytelling channel on YouTube and on Patreon.
I am, for the first time, standing on a stage and telling stories. (My functional social anxiety is NOT happy about this. I am experiencing rushes and weird stuff is happening, but that´s another story.)
I am becoming a storycrafter.
I hope you can come along, enjoy and support this ride.