When I was very young, I remember standing outside during a tornado warning, and the wind was strong enough that I felt like I was going to blow away. The sky was a deep gray, and trash whirled around above the gravel. The wind lifted my feet higher every time I took a step. Even speaking felt difficult because of the pressure of the wind.
But instead of wanting to head inside, I wanted to walk deeper into the storm. I wanted to be able to fully experience it so I could encode it in my memory. I wanted to be able to close my eyes when I wrote and feel the storm rushing through my mind.
That's what being a writer has always meant to be - the desire to be inside of experience. To step outside of your own body and become not just an individual, but a thing that can take feeling and transmute it for other people.
It's why when a glass cake stand shattered, cutting my fingers, I stared at the way the blood bubbled out from the wound, and the way it made patterns against the floor where it splattered.
It's why I took one too many shots of tequila, despite knowing I was past my limit, because I wanted to know what it felt like to suffer, intoxicated, right on the edge of consciousness.
It's why I said yes when I should have no, when I stayed for that one last drink, when I listened to the stories of people with bug eyes and crazy spasms instead of walking away. I shivered just to feel the cold, because I knew that one day in a story I'd have to walk through a blizzard.
I became a chameleon. I changed my hair color, my outfit, my makeup - and look into the mirror to see what it felt like to be another human being. I'd try on a new facial expression, a different laugh. I didn't want to just be me, Autumn Christian. I wanted to be anyone. I wanted to understand what it felt to have a thousand people inside of me.
Writers needed experience, and I was dying for it - I had spent too long secluded and barricaded. I thirsted. I wanted to drink the whole world.
It wasn't enough to write beautifully. I had to write in a way that was real. And not just real, but real in all dimensions and angles.
I thought I could be a vessel instead of a human being.
The long answer made short - I could not.
Just because I wanted to be a writer did not mean I could ignore the voice inside of me when it told no, or expose myself to all sorts of discomforts without consequence. It did not mean that if I pushed myself too far, I'd be able to come back. It didn't mean that I superseded all the rules that magically applied to everyone else but me.
If I looked into a mirror and didn't recognize my own eyes, it meant that when I headed to the keyboard to write I never really connected with my being when it told me to stop, slow down, or go faster. In trying to experience everything, I had completely disconnected from my own self.
It was a long road going back and to try to repair the damage I had done.
I don't seek out experience so much anymore - because I don't have to - it's happening to me literally all the time. it's an inescapable part of being human. I can create a grand drama heading to the refrigerator for a Red bull. Whether I like it or not, something awful or majestic happens every day. I'm interwoven into the fabric of all existence. I can neither pull myself out of it or plunge further into it.
And the more I realized that, the better my writing became. I didn't need to deny my self or experience absurd heights of sensation. That'll happen whether I want it to or not. But when I experience life in accordance with my inner principles, recognizing myself as human, the writing flows easier.
I'm not a thousand people. I am one person. When I fuse into my self, and see who I truly am, it's easier to move into the mind of another. I am no longer masquerading as a vessel wearing a costume of human skin. I never was.
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