All authors have at least one alter ego. It is the mechanism that helps us separate ourselves from our own realities. The alter ego allows us to change our own pathology, if only to sacrifice our characters to the mercy of the muse. For example, “my true self” considers death to be a somber, saddening occurrence. When I hear of it on the news or read it in a paper, my heart breaks for the mothers and fathers of the deceased.
On the other hand, my author self does not recoil from death. In fact, in the writing of Willow Moon, I have played out the death of most of my characters in great detail and with satisfaction. I have killed my characters in both grotesque and poetic ways but I have never felt sadness or remorse for them. My alter ego understands, very clearly that death is just another end on a list of possible (and less impactful) endings.
This “splitting” of myself is both my blessing and my curse; one that I’m sure many fellow authors have struggled with. The relationship between an author’s true self and alter ego is ambiguous at best. I have tried to understand what underlying beliefs, ideas, and notions dry my author self but this ego changes as often as my characters, plots, themes and conflicts do. I’m not sure if this change is a result of my lack of writer’s “niche” or if my lack of niche is a result of my ever changing ego.
As I am researching for Light Without, I have come in contact with some of Carl Jung’s work. Jung theorized that we all have a shadow self and on this matter he wrote:
“Everyone carries a shadow… and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. It may be one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”
Jung himself expressed multiple personalities which he named No 1 and No 2. They were very opposite in thought and manner. Perhaps this is what lead to his study of the unconcious mind and when he renamed his two personalities “ego” and “self”, it became clear that he saw his own “splitting” as a lack of balance between these two separate parts of his own psyche. Perhaps I, too, suffer from a split psyche. If this is true, I hope I never find balance. I hope I never “become one” because I see my alter ego as the catalyst for my writing.
My alter ego allows me to explore people and worlds which would be normally be out of reach to my true self. It allows me to step outside myself and explore patterns of thinking which are foreign to myself. On the other hand, I create characters and stories that will (hopefully) enrich the lives and patterns of thinking among the collective consciousness. Jung was, apparently, disturbed by the variety of complexes (part-personalities) that one person can have. Although there are positive connotation for a lot of this in his work, he always warned of the psychosis that can occur when one fails to maintain a balance between the two. For me, this “imbalance”, is a beautiful and enlightening experience…one that I would be half the person without.