Jeremy Tolbert: The Loudest Voice Comes From Candlelight At Night

To have spoken only with a whisper in the past does not have to limit what you can say in the future.

When a friend of mine introduced me to the personality test made famous by Myers-Briggs and prominent psychiatrist, Carl Jung, I became intrigued on finding out about what traits defined me. I had never followed any of this in years past since I had thought it to be similar to astrology and therefore, a complete hoax. Madame Ruby from Peewee’s Big Adventure to me seemed more reliable. But, in the end, I was amazed to realize how accurate my type, INFJ, was to my thoughts and actions.

In my October 16th article, Drag or Ash, I quickly spoke on who I was as a writer. This week, I thought to expand on that and divulge in what makes me tick out on the streets and how and why I write. Seemingly, I am not much different spilling words onto my typewriter as I am speaking in tongues out in the world. As my type would attest to, I am able to adapt to social situations, yet I am a true introvert. For example, while I was out walking alongside other bodies of society the other day, it dawned on me how comfortable I was minding my own business as I listened intently to my favorite band of the moment’s lyrics. I felt at ease surrounded by no one, yet as time had past, I became increasingly uncomfortable as though the entire city had converged around me.

Growing up, I could sense my desire to be alone and being by myself became more of a need than a want. My mother would have to bribe me into calling people on the telephone and nearly push me out of the door to play with friends. I have always internalized my actions and thoughts, even my debates and conversations with myself and others.  Only to share when prompted or asked. I focused more on tilting my head in circles for the sights and sounds around me and, specifically for the last decade,  the tapping of my typewriter keys. In a nutshell, I am a very private person, yet I am an open book. I won't tell if no one asks.

And that is the essence of who I believe I am as a writer. I am a walking contradiction. I am often deeply secretive, hoarding my own words and then the next moment I have the impulse of seeing my face on bus billboards like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex In the City. I have not reached that sense of confidence quite yet nor the inescapable need to buy Manolo Blahniks. But, as a person, and as a writer I see similarities between myself and two others: Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Bukowski.  Where in, my muses gravitated toward the romance of the darkness, shadows and life of the downtrodden; the moment I began my literary journey, I too found myself drifting toward similar situations both from what I saw with my own eyes as well as what was inside my mind.  Reading their work and learning about who they were during their lifetime, I was struck and attracted, for instance, how Poe began his poem entitled, Alone, “From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were, I have not seen as others saw, I could not bring my passions from a common spring. From the same source I have not taken my sorrow; I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone; and all I loved, I loved alone.” Along with how Hank commented in an interview, “I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room – I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful – awful beyond all – but I never felt that one person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me. In other words, loneliness is something I’ve never been bothered with because I’ve always had this terrible itch for solitude.”

I felt a calm right then about the silence I was living in. Bukowski taught me it was not imperative to always leave my nest to feel the presence of others unless it was at the bar to see the unmasking of humanity. As a result, sometimes feeling as though the bar stool was my longest friend, I dove into the deepest part of my soul, manifesting, in words, what I felt but could not say out loud; away from the waves once my skin had absorbed another. Also, I was drawn to Poe’s Alone. He's shown me I too am not alone in my self acceptance as someone who enjoys the stillness of the air. That my head and heart are unique. That the silence that I crave and the seclusion which overtakes me privately, makes what I write turn into flames professionally. So, even though my work is raw, loud and at times heart-wrenching, I’m with the belief that I have molded who they were onto my own skin while at the same time providing myself an outlet to share my words. Like Bukowski and Poe, once a pen is caressed between my fingers, and cupped in my hand, I find that my voice speaks the loudest leaning up against candlelight where perhaps in daylight, out on the street, I feel muted.

Anais Nin put it better than anyone, “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” She put in one sentence what I am trying to say in 800 plus words. Which is, the  position I have with a pen and paper is a responsibility that conjoins the need to carve out reality through words, where in any other venue with my personality, I could not. My itch to feel solitude today has been even greater. Similar to many of the past greats whose lifeline was built by quill and ink, where their voices rang louder than the people yelling atop milk carton crates making laws; I can attest that once I sit in silence, the written word is my weapon of choice to reach the clouds and beyond the streets and gutter where my physical presence seems to hide and shiver.

So, whether we associate ourselves with Bukowski, Poe, the Marquis de Sade or even Carrie Bradshaw, I find that being a writer is a profession that is built solely on peace for privacy. We sit, or stand in Hemingway’s case, and are alone in our heads for hours on end. And, in my case, it fits perfectly with who I am, my traits and what I write because like Edgar, I have not been as others were and I have not seen as others saw. Our personalities are all different, yet what brings us together is the need to be ourselves, alone, calming a restless heart with blood, ink and or soil.