MA: Hi, Craig. Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about the creative process in general and your work in particular. I like the narrative voice in your story 1984. One of the things that sticks with me is your narrator’s feeling of being invisible. He’s in a crowd of people, dripping wet from his frozen clothes thawing, and no one notices. This strikes me as an apt description of modern life. Would you care to comment on that?
CB: While writing 1984, I tried to create a dissociative voice. I think that dissociation—both in a social and a personal sense—provides an interesting parallel. The narrator is not only a cipher to the people around him, he is simultaneously a stranger in his own body. He does not experience sensations of discomfort or pain, but merely becomes aware of them as they occur to the body he inhabits. He experiences the people around him in much the same way.
MA: Yes, I see that. He’s sort of an observer of his own life. I love the image that our guest illustrator, Kristin Beeler, designed to accompany your piece. I’m interested to hear what you think of it. What did you make of the spider and the drain?
CB: I also loved Kristen Beeler’s piece and found it incredibly appropriate for 1984. The colors of decay, the implied silence, and the ominous presence of the spider perfectly echoed the mood and foreshadowed the ending. The drain, for me, illustrated the waste of addiction while the spider invoked the threat of destruction.
MA: Yes, “implied silence.” What a great descriptor. There is a lot of silence in both the image and your story. And at the end, your narrator clearly still feels voiceless and invisible, even as he writes an inflammatory phrase on the wall in his own blood. What events do you think could occur that would make him feel seen/visible?
CB: The question I struggled with while writing 1984 is a question I encounter everyday in my work: Is it the responsibility of the sufferer to appropriately cry for help or is it the responsibility of those who can help to be more aware? In a clinical setting we become almost hyper-aware; in the real world, that level of awareness is much more difficult.
MA: I agree. I struggle with that in my life, too. And I would say that even when we are aware, it can be tough to gauge when it’s time to step in and when to simply stand by. You’ve depicted your narrator in a way that makes me care what happens to him. I think that’s really important in a story of any kind. In this case, I want him to recover from his addiction, to turn his back on the numbing effects of alcohol. Given that you have created something that is artistic and also speaks to addiction, I’m wondering what role you think art or “The Arts” plays in recovery?
CB: The Arts provide an outlet for deep honesty, beyond the mere reporting of events. Honesty can become, through storytelling, a shared experience. For me, that honesty has been the foundation for recovery.
MA: And finally, what does “recovery” mean to you?
CB: For me, as someone who was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder at the age of 31, insight was the beginning of recovery. The next and most difficult step was asking for help. The final step is my daily awareness that every morning I must choose to continue recovering.
MA: Insight, yes. We could all use more of that. Thanks so much for this discussion, Craig, and for sharing your fine work with our readers.