“Part of me suspects that I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.” I wasn’t the only one! When I heard this John Lennon quote sometime in my sophomore year of high school I was relieved to know that at least one other person lived the same sort of split existence. (And yes, this deepened the Beatles crush - even if it was 30 years late.)
Turns out, John and I don’t share some secret bond across time and space.
Unless you’ve reached enlightenment, every human on the planet suffers from some sort of epic inner conflict. And though “I’m brilliant! I’m shit!” is one of the more common examples, this sort of double consciousness cracks our psyches in all sorts of ways.
Columbia University graduate non-fiction program chair Phillip Lopate sees another brutal internal split that silences storytellers before they even begin. As he says:
The fledgling personal writer may be torn between two contrasting extremes:
a: “I am so weird that I could never tell on the page what is really secretly going on in my mind.”
b: “I am so boring, nothing ever happens to me out of the ordinary, so who would want to read about me?”
Both extremes are rooted in shame, and both reflect a lack of worldliness.
I’d love to say that I’ve outgrown my fraud/goddess complex, but I admit I’m still a human stuck in the middle. I also must admit that I still worry that my stories are too bizarre or hausfrau dull.
But somehow, I’ve learned to be grateful to my dualities - even when shifting between the poles makes me feel seasick. All my contradictions are turning out to be essential to telling a year’s worth of stories…
So the bad news is that we’re all embroiled in inner conflict. The good news is that we’re not alone. Please share one of your creative conflicts in the comments or tag me when you share a strong story about one of your contradictions!