What is Home?

“You’ve always had the power…”

Okay, this isn’t the post I’d planned, but that happens a lot in writing, film, life….

The most powerful and enduring stories are about going home. When we are too long away from home, we describe ourselves as sick with the longing for it. Dorothy to Odysseus, quests and walkabouts; Shakespeare notes it in Henry V, act 4, sc. 8: “…to England then: Where ne’er from France arrived more happy men…”

What is home? It can be a residence, a family group or a birth place. Home is charged with all kinds of meanings, usually positive, but if you or your character grew up in an abusive home, those associations might repel you or them from the very concept of home. You see how stories can spin out very differently if you look at how you and how your characters relate to “home”? Just writing this, I’ve noticed I quit breathing. The town I grew up in has fond memories; the house does not. Home sweet home was the one I created later in life. What is your relation to home? How does it inform your writing or acting? How do your characters relate to home? It’s worth exploring, especially if you get stuck because it is such a rich vein. As Maya Angelou said: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Never did find my notes on Dorothy Allison’s lecture on Home she gave at Antioch, L.A., and had to go out of town longer than expected. Ms. Allison may well have told us to put away our notebooks and just be there. In any case, I did find this quote from her:

Write the story that you were always afraid to tell. I swear to you that there is magic in it, and if you show yourself naked for me, I’ll be naked for you. It will be our covenant.             

and this nearly hour long video on the writer’s voice (the sound improves about 7 minutes in). Enjoy.


home and diving deeper

surrealHouseBelow is a TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert on success, failure and the drive to create. In it, she discusses “home,” something I heard Dorothy Allison also talk about in a memorable lecture a few years ago at Antioch University, Los Angeles (will look for my notes to include in the next post).

This dovetails with a dream workshop I did. Any artist will tell you of the power of the unconscious – even while too many leave it untapped. It pays to spend time diving down to access images and dreams that enrich your work. In that 5 hour workshop, I got it, really got it, that we can never escape our shadow, our traumas, our wounds – we can heal, certainly, yes and yes and yes, we should heal for our own well-being – but the scars remain and there’s purpose to that, because whatever happens, whatever it is that you believe keeps you from your creative vitality is also the fertilizer for that very vitality. We need both… we are both. Darkness and light. Yin and yang. Dormant and blossoming. We stand at the midpoint between failure and success and Gilbert tells how she keeps her equilibrium: