INTERVIEW: THE MAGIC BLACK BOOK

You can find her writing at themagicblackbook.com – she’s asked me to refer to her by her blog’s name as she doesn’t like to share her real name online.

The “About” page on her site states:

20-something
writer of creative non-fiction (short prose and poetry)
North London born and raised (and yet to escape)
“total fucking angel” or “ten types of trouble” (depending on who you ask)
perpetually on the verge of a breakdown or a breakthrough (sometimes both).

I do not write for you,
I write because I have to.

Do you consider yourself an artist? What do you think makes someone a “real artist?”

I do consider myself an artist but only because of society’s insistence on labelling everything. When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them that I’m a writer, they immediately assume that I’m a journalist. When I tell them that I’m an artist, they assume that I’m a painter. When I tell them that I’m a poet, they assume that I’m poor. (Only one of those assumptions is correct). Sometimes I don’t want to explain myself so I just tell them that I’m a professional pessimist. Perhaps I should keep better company.

I read somewhere once that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I stand by that, and every post that I publish online has that intention at its heart. That’s what I think art is: ruffling feathers, opening closed eyes, taking risks, shocking strangers, surprising yourself, forcing the reader to feel anything other than what they were feeling before they began reading.

Can you explain more about what your goals are with your writing – what do you aim to make people feel? Does that vary with each piece? Are you trying to change anyones minds about anything? Do you want people to feel bits of what you’ve gone through – and, if so, what are you hoping they’ll take away from it?

Well I write purely for selfish reasons: my goal in writing anything is simply to get these words and stories and emotions and people out of my system before they consume me. I wrote on my About page, “I do not write for you, I write because I have to.” Writing is the only effective therapy for me. I started journaling when I was 8. If I didn’t write my emotions out they would’ve eaten me from the inside out a long time ago. So I write for myself, to preserve what’s left of my sanity, of my old self. Anyone who reads my writing and feels anything is a bonus, one that I’m amazed by and very grateful for.

I can barely control my own feelings let alone attempt to influence others’. I don’t think I have the right or the privilege to expect or anticipate anything from readers. Of course, if my writing does anything to increase awareness and lessen stigma surrounding mental illness then that is a great thing. People need to accept that mental illnesses can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. And if a reader sees a part of themselves reflected in my writing that worries them, I hope that my total honesty and candid accounts of how brutal life can be when it’s spiralled out of control would encourage them to seek help or advice before their life ends up as messy as my own, which is my attempt to “comfort the disturbed.”

Also, I fear boring people and boring lives. Some of my stories may sound unbelievable but if a reader will a dull existence gasps or laughs or screws their face up in disgust at what I’ve written then I’ve succeeded in “disturbing the comfortable.” One thing I don’t seek from readers is sympathy: I only write because I have to. I post it online in the vain hope that it may help someone, somewhere to realise that they are not alone but, again, I don’t think I have that power. Mainly I post my writing to help myself, to save myself, to explain myself, to understand myself, to remind myself that I am braver than I think and that the kindness of strangers is stronger than ever. If I didn’t make my writing public I would just be disturbing the disturbed.

Tell me more about fearing boring lives & boring people? What would life on your terms look like? How do you try to keep yourself and your life interesting?

I made a promise to myself when I was a teenager that I would never say “I’m bored” ever again and I’ve stuck with that for almost a decade. I don’t believe in boredom. There are so many books to be read, places to visit, people to meet, things to be learned. I know a lot of people who are stuck. They hate their lives and complain every day about how shit everything is but then do absolutely nothing to change that. They never better themselves, they just stay miserable and unfulfilled until they die. And London is the best city in the world so there’s no excuse for it!

My life is always interesting because of my personalities, my unpredictable behaviours, my penchant for danger and trouble and talking to strangers. I love to learn. I love creating things. Like earlier today I made a fake postmark stamp out of false nail glue and tampon string to make an NHS letter I’ve forged look genuine so I can prank my boyfriend. Who else in the world did that today? My brain is constantly pinging in a thousand different directions, even when I’m asleep, so I’m never short of mad ideas.

But my mental illnesses prevent me from doing so much, things healthy people take for granted. The Spoon Theory is very much applicable to my life: my diseases dictate what I can and can’t do each day, which is why I get so angry at people who have unlimited spoons but waste their lives away. I do as much as my illnesses allow me to do but I’ve missed out on a lot of great things. And a lack of money is the other thing that stops me from living my best life. Money would definitely buy me happiness. If I ever hear someone with money complaining of being bored I’ll punch them in the face. That’ll add some excitement to their lives.

When are you your favorite version of yourself?

This is difficult to answer because my brain oscillates unrelentingly between feeling the most devastating hatred towards myself (where I loathe absolutely every single thing about me to the point where I try to rip my own skin off or claw my eyes out or decide never speak to another human being again) and a wildly ostentatious egocentrism where I believe I am better than everyone and pity all the people that aren’t as “brilliant” as me, where I think I’m the most fascinating and beautiful soul in a 50 mile radius. It’s exhausting, frustrating, confusing and dangerous to simultaneously experience a superiority- and inferiority-complex all the same time. Living this way guarantees an identity crisis of impossible proportions, and there are so many “versions” of me that I can’t even begin to think about your question properly without losing my metaphoric marbles. Plus, I think my favourite ever version of me is dead and cannot be resurrected: too much has happened to go back to her. She wouldn’t survive in 2017 anyway.

Having said that, I always feel like I’m “better” when I’m by the sea. I also feel different when I’m in a place where I’m unknown, where I can be anyone, where nobody knows anything about me or the versions of me. I also like how I feel after I’ve had a productive day, eaten healthily, had a bubble bath, listened to good music, learnt something new, haven’t panicked about being skint, not got angry, not cried, not been hell-bent on destruction, not had any bad news, not had too much to drink, written something that I feel proud of, read a fantastic book, worn a nice outfit I feel confident in, put my lipstick on perfectly, spent an evening in good company, had a real laugh, and not made anyone concerned or worried about me. Good days are good days, whether you’re at the top of your game or at rock bottom.

(Photograph by KAIT MAURO)

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