We lie about it. We turn our secret self into a lie and display it for all the world to see, but because it is a lie, like all fiction is, our secret is kept safe. Through these lies we breath life into the words we put down onto the page. We bare our very souls for all to see, yet cloak our naked soul in the guise of something else. Our readers see a bit of themselves within what we show them. Through the lie about our secret self we show them a bit of themselves.
We must never reveal the truth of our secret self that is hidden behind these lies for the structures we have built with them will crumble away as the stones of truth are pulled away. The revelation of what lies in our secret life dramatically effects how the reader perceives our writing. A bit of Charles Dickens’ secret life was revealed by his biographer, John Forester. He discovered that as a young boy Charles Dickens was force to work in a shoe polish factory to help pay of his families debt. Twelve year old Dickens labored in the factory pasting labels on bottles of shoe polish from eight in the morning until eight at night. Despite this grueling work his father still ended up in debtors prison for months. Dickens was shamed by these events. He pulled them deep into himself, making them part of his secret life. If it hadn’t been for a chance encounter by his biographer Dickens would have taken these secrets to his grave or would he have. He was a writer after all. He laid bare this horrible secret in his writing over and over throughout the years. A prime example of this is the character David Copperfield. Copperfield initials are D.C. while Dickens are C.D., but the connection doesn’t end there. Copperfield’s guardian ends up in debtors prison while he ends up pasting labels on wine bottles in a winery. One of the major changes that Dickens made with the Copperfield character is that he made him an orphan. This change appears to be the greatest insight into Dickens’ secret life. The shame of that singular event in his life was so great that when he put it into his writing he killed off his parents. Perhaps during that time Dickens felt like the orphan that he made Copperfield into. We will never know the answer to that question. Dickens swore to never speak of that moment again after he wrote a note to his biographer about that event in his life.
Now I think you can see the danger to revealing the truth hidden in an authors secret life. The revelation forever alters your perception of their work.
During the course of working on this blog I had a profound and painful realization about my own secret life. It had to deal with a reoccurring theme in my writing. I will not expose any details about this revelation here or ever. I will say this though, understanding a truth about myself will help me grow not only as a writer, but as a person.