“You take any dictator in the world and if you actually met them, like Idi Amin or Khadafi or whatever, you would think, ‘There is insanity there,’ but it all locks down to a real person who grew up, who had a childhood, who went to school.
That’s what I wanted to do with my ability now, as opposed to when I was younger and at college and doing comedy and just played it for laughs.
Now I’m playing ‘What’s the truth?’”
~ Eddie Izzard, comedian and actor in an interview with Indiewire.com
“What’s the truth?” is the key question for any writer, actor or artist.
If you’re familiar with the truth-telling work of comedian Eddie Izzard, you might admire his performances for the same reason I do. No one else wends their way to uncomfortable truths quite like he does, by “punching up” to the Power with a meandering, surreal wit.
In an extended monologue about despots Hitler invites Eva Braun into the bunker for their honeymoon, European colonizers take over the world with the “clever use of flags”, and the US army misses a huge opportunity by not letting transvestites in. (“We all know one of the main elements of attack is the element of surprise!”)
“Maybe I was being guarded, or trying to make everything very palatable, or funny, and therefore I never seemed to say anything that really cut through the mist of being a performer, an actor, and a personality of some sort.
Then, toward the end of the film, I started talking about my mother, who died when I was six. And that’s when I said something revelatory: I know why I’m doing all of this, I said. Everything I do in life is trying to get her back. I think if I do enough things… that maybe she’ll come back.”
What could be more vulnerable than sharing one’s deepest desire so publicly — the core secret that explains what makes you tick?
Eddie’s story resonated deeply with me because it triggered an awareness of my own core secret — the deepest truth behind what propelled me forward as a young woman and rippled out into my life as an artist (in my early 20s I was both an aspiring painter and poet).
I left high school on a mission, doing everything I could to try to be extraordinary. Because I hoped somehow my friend might tune in from the fourth dimension and see I wasn’t wasting a second of my time. He would see the girl he knew become a woman he could love — someone who deserved his love. And he would want to come back.
The magical thinking of a 16 year old girl, in a sense, made me who I am.
Truth-telling — acknowledging vulnerable truths, hard verifiable facts, getting deep down to the emotional truth in writing — is what this month’s blog series is all about.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be interviewing three highly accomplished writers — Chelene Knight, Isaac Yuen, and Karen Zey — about how they get to the truth in their work. I can’t wait to learn what they have to say and share their insights. Stay tuned for my first Q and A next week.
I learned (or re-learned) something vital about writing this summer. When life goes from chaotic to surreal and you don’t write, it can be really hard to start again — and harder to get past the events that caused you to stop.
Maybe this is true for you, too: writing is essential to nurturing a clear head and an unburdened heart. No matter how busy, how crazy, how surreal life gets, it is so important to make time to do it, every day, just for me.
That’s my commitment to my work this fall. To write each and every day as a matter of self-care.
I hope you’ve all been keeping the flow going and honouring how important your writing is. If you have a truth to share about writing, drop me a line or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!
Now some course news: registration for the next session of CNF Outliers opens next week! This is your last chance to jump in before I raise the price to better reflect the value of my offering. I hope you’ll join us!
Best to all of you, always —
Want to sign up for the September 18 session of CNF Outliers?
“Nicole crafts engaging and inspiring lessons, is attentive and sensitive to her students’ needs, and no doubt builds better writers. My CNF has a lot more depth and fearlessness after tangling with these experimental forms, and I am grateful for the fresh perspective.”
~ Lisa Rilkoff, July 2017
Sign up for $279 USD until September 15!
Registration for the next session of CNF Outliers officially opens on Monday, September 11.
Register by Friday, September 15 to save $70 on your course fee! As of September 16 the CNF Outliers ecourse will be priced at $349 USD to better reflect my overhead costs and the time I spend each session supporting my students’ learning.
To guarantee your spot please email me at [email protected]. I will confirm availability and provide payment details when I hear from you.
Grief and Loss E-course Update
I’ve had wonderful feedback to date from the writers I’ve shared my ideas with for a unique and valuable course offering on grief and loss. Thank you to my small, mighty team of beta readers whose flexibility and commitment are so appreciated.
While I had hoped to have the course ready to launch by October, unforeseen circumstances in August interfered with writing the course, forcing me to re-think my timeline.
Once again I turn to the wise (and funny) words of Eddie Izzard for comfort:
“No one ever says, This piece of creative work is crap, but they made it in a couple of weeks so let’s go and check it out. Contrariwise, no one ever says, Now, this piece of creative work took ten years to make and a lot of care and attention–so it’s brilliant but I’m not going to check it out because it took so long to make.”
As soon as there’s progress on the course, Writers, you’ll be the first to know.
A final thought on the surreal in life and artmaking
One of my favourite artists is Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, who exposed her deepest truths in her work from her fruitless struggle to have a child to her heartbreak over the tragic loss of an acquaintance.
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t,” she said. “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
Writers, art-makers, lovers of the world: in surreal times, the world longs for truth, honesty and your deeply personal vision of reality.
You don’t have to write comedy, like Mr. Izzard, to punch up to the Power. If you’ve ever been down an entire world can relate to your truth.
Go tell it.
PS I love a good postscript (and a good laugh). If you haven’t seen it, I hope Eddie Izzard’s monologue about using his high school French while visiting France makes you smile.