When I started this blog as an experiment in meaning-making, I intended to create something beyond myself. A vision or an enterprise that, though it may find its origins in my consciousness, can stand on its own. I never anticipated that I would end up delving inward to the degree that I have. Or in the manner in which I have. That the entirety of my vision, at this moment, would hinge on the creation of an ideal—the image I have consciously crafted of a future self, that in many ways, runs counter to the cultural grain. How much of this process, I ask myself, was intentional? How much of it simply felt like a natural, spontaneous expression of self? How much of it was born of the need to create an external image, or a persona, that jives with what stares back at me from within? And, how much of it was just fun—playing with ideas from literature, art, fashion, philosophy, and psychological theory, just to see what, if anything, I could make? All of it.
I know that, in order for this project to be successful by my own standards, I must move it further outside of myself. As Otto Rank (in whose work I have been wholly and amorously immersed for weeks) might say, I need to create more productively. To focus more pointedly on my vision and less on the self who created it. My intuition tells me, unwaveringly, that the key to developing The Used Life beyond the limits of my own self-conscious explorations resides in self-fashioning. As a concept. As a method of self-creation. As a phrase that I’ve discussed, yet have, to date, only partially defined. Of course, the reason it remains partially defined is that I haven’t unearthed its substance yet. It occurs to me that, while the posts in which I contemplate the nature of femininity force me into my feelings, reflecting on the process of self-creation forces me out, into the realm of the practical and the useful. It is best that I oscillate between the two. It also occurs to me that it’s most beneficial to write about self-fashioning as a means of clarifying my thoughts on the matter, rather than waiting around for an epiphanic moment.
With that in mind, you may view this post and others like it as moving toward a more tangible conception of self-fashioning, piece by piece. It is also a foray into my own processes of self-creation. Intermingled with theory. And a flexible dose of creativity. It is incomplete. Imperfectly fragmented. A work-in-progress in every way. Here, I am focusing my energies on the ideal, or self-created image. The soul of this entire project.
I prefer the phrase, “self-fashioned,” to “self-created” (or its variations), as it relates to self-defined aspects of the feminine. The first reason for that is surely the most apparent: its reference to fashion. The inclination to adorn ourselves—to create wearable personalities that reflect our moods and desires—is distinctly feminine. It is the desire to exude a particular aesthetic. To allude, often playfully, seductively, or luxuriously, to what’s underneath. It is the notion that some feelings, some states, some needs must be reflected on the outside—must be worn in order to achieve their full potency. That is, in fact, why I choose to elucidate the feelings I do—feeling pretty, feeling like a woman, wanting to be wanted—because I desire very powerfully to exude them. They are a life force. They are intensely erotic. They are both inner and outer. An all-over kindling. Indeed, I am using my own sensuality as a filter to determine which emotions and experiences are worthy of fashioning. Or, rather, which, by their effects, should guide the process of sculpting my ideal and myself. A very conscious move toward a more intricately textured life.
I have noticed, too, that it would be impossible for me to create any sort of meaningful or effective ideal without exercising my creative abilities. Such an entity, in my life, could never be straightforward, linear, or one-dimensional. She would be boring. Flat and inauthentic. Soulless. The process of writing her is indispensable. Writing allows for a degree of intimacy, of fondness, of inclusion that merely discussing or musing about her attributes wouldn’t. When I write her, I imagine her. I explore the aspects of her experience that concern me. I seek not only understanding, but magic. Transformation. I want to lift her up. To redefine her strengths, her relationships, delve into the dregs of her being. Even if it means my efforts must border on the absurd. Or, perhaps, the trivial and the absurd are what I am searching for.
The same may be said for the use of visual art in creating a more totalizing creative vision of and for oneself. If I were a visual artist, I suppose that drawing, painting, or sculpting my ideal might supplement verbal exercises to a greater degree. Or, even replace them. Although, I do not believe I could fashion an ideal without combining both the visual and the verbal. The need to find art work (and now, a shiny, new logo) that corresponded accurately to my vision for The Used Life was, and continues to be, a must (For more information on artwork, see the About page.) It’s a feeling I am after. An aesthetic. A complete and consistent articulation of the feminine. After all, what is my ideal if not a feeling, a sense? This woman I conceptualize is almost entirely intuited. Even when I use visual metaphors to describe her, she is little more to me than an essence. With some refined edges.
I can, however, tell you precisely how she feels. I can tell you that she functions at a higher level of consciousness than I do presently. She is evolved. She is powerful. Calm. Confident. Radiant. Sexual. And warm. She is vast. Her figure illuminates a familiar corner of my mind. I believe Rank is correct when he suggests that some of us reach a point at which our self-created ideal (whatever form that may take) becomes our central guide. It is a means of achieving self-reliance and self-possession, both in art and in life. I desire to be that type of individual. And, I also desire to achieve that feat myself. If this exercise were not self-guided, it would undoubtedly be easier and the results swifter. But, it would be far less fun. And inventive. (And who, in their right mind, would approve my reading list? Coco Chanel, Otto Rank, Octavio Paz, and Karen Horney…really?) And I would never come to know the satisfaction of having created myself for myself. The hard way.