Feelings- we all have them but not many of us like to share them-maybe because of aphenphosmphobia /Philophobia (fear of vulnerability) or Katagelophobia (fear of embarrassment and ridicule) or athazagoraphobia (fear of rejection) mainly because of one overriding emotion: fear. We the millennials as a generation are encouraged to play dead with our feelings- to suppress -to ignore- anything- just for god’s sake don’t show them. And for those that do show an emotional responses they tend to be regarded as sensitive, over-emotional or just weak.
Men in particular are so slammed for showing hypersensitivity or any sort of emotional response apart from aggression that many struggle to deal with their feelings leading to harmful mental health implications-in the past 15 years there has reportedly been a 65% increase in male suicides. We all also recently heard about Kanyes hospitalization, which received a disturbing lack of compassion online; and Kid Cudi who checked himself into rehab for `depression and suicidal urges’ only to have Drake diss his depression as a `phase’- “You were the man on the moon, now you just go through your phases / Life of the angry and famous”. Such responses not only reinforce a lack of comprehension and compassion but also stigmatizes mental health illness as some sort of `phase’ making it even more difficult for people to share their emotions and feelings.
Emotional detachment is often encouraged and reinforced today as being `chill’, we love as a majority to be chill almost fearing anything `deep’ or involving emotional intensity because in most cases we don’t know how to deal with it. So we really do to the most to keep ourselves from facing and processing our emotions; this `busy trap’ as Tim Kreider writes `serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness’ leaving no time to process.
Something that author and poet Magi Camaj is aiming to challenge through her writings in new book FEEL- I spoke to Magi about the importance of feelings and processing emotions, FEEL, writing and her Albanian culture.
Describe FEEL in three words
FEEL. FEEL. FEEL.
Did you spend a lot of time researching for FEEL or was it more based on emotions?
It is written strictly from observations and experiences that came from emotions that live in both the mind and heart.
Why do you think as a society we love being ‘chill’ and not expressing emotions ?
We are filled with fear. We are scared of getting hurt. We see others acting a certain way. In turn, many want to follow because being numb is “cool.” We are used to getting things fast. We use things. We use people. We are losing that human connection. I think that we live in a fantasy world at many times–you know, like in another world, just like social media forces us to at times. I think that we forget that there is a real world, too. I don’t know why.
Yeah I agree-we’re connected more than ever but losing real connection. Why is fully feeling and processing emotions so important to you?
Without emotions, we would be robots. We would be without a heartbeat and without our own original thoughts. I feel like we wouldn’t know what it would feel like to truly be human. I mean, we can block emotions out, but if we share them, I know that we would be so much greater. We are meant to feel. Why shouldn’t we use every part of ourselves to our fullest potential?
Some writers find writing energizing others exhausting and draining- which category would you say you’re in?
I get this rush when I write. It is like a spark. I have to write whenever something comes to me or else I will feel like I lose it forever. It really feels like a part of me has become lost. When I get that rush, it gives me life because it is proof that I am alive and that I am in touch with my soul. At the same time, it is draining because I feel too much with my whole soul. I don’t know what it is like to just get through life without digging deep into your own soul and the soul of others. To me, every single thing is inspiration. Writing is my release, but the process comes with pain. Then again, every blessing does.
I have always done my own thing, so I don’t really like titles. I have never placed one on myself. However, I have been writing since I was 7 years old and words always flowed out of me. It was never anything forced. I think of words as oxygen. They give me life. If they don’t come out of me, I know that there is something wrong. Also, when they come out of me, too rapidly, I also know there is something wrong. I like to think that God has given me this gift. It does not just come from my human. I hope this answers the question.
Do you view each of your books as separate publications or as a collection with a running connection?
Every book is a separate publication. Every book will make you feel something different. Every book has a separate story. I hold love very close to me, so it is a prevalent theme in all of my publications. It always will be because it lives in me, so anything I write is filled with love. Regarding the two children’s books, they both have a theme so that the youth can learn about the substance they have in a society that does barely allows them to use their imagination as much as they feed them technology.
FEEL isn’t in the traditional layout of a book so to speak- where did you get the idea for the layout and why?
Different ideas always enter my mind. I don’t like to follow the norm just to follow it. I don’t think there should be a specific rule for a layout. I want to divide the mind and the heart in half and then I let whatever was in both spill out onto the paper.
Has the environment in which you’ve grown up affected your writing?
I grew up on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, New York. I consider myself one of the “Rare Roses of NYC.” I didn’t grow up in the best circumstances. I have had many obstacles placed in front of me, but I think that it made me want to create more. It made me use my imagination and improvise. It instilled a hunger in me. I had no choice but to search for my soul, use my mind, and love with my whole heart. They were my most prized possessions.
What impact do you hope your writing will have?
I just hope that someone out there will feel something so intense that they will sit there and analyse their soul. I also hope that my children’s books will redirect today’s youth.
We’re growing up in a society that constantly ridicules individuals (particularly men) for expressing feelings as soft or just highly sensitive- What are your views on this?
If I am being honest, I feel that women and men, who express their feelings are the strongest. There is so much strength in vulnerability. Joe Budden is a great example of this. He is an introspective rapper who is in touch with his emotions and has impacted many people. He was one of the first to bring mental health awareness to hip hop. I think that if you guard your emotions and put up these walls, you hold a lot of fear inside of you because you are scared of people being able to take advantage of you. It takes strength to be like “this is how I feel and I don’t care what you think.” I think it is a beautiful thing. I couldn’t see myself being with a man who is scared of expressing his emotions. I just couldn’t.
How important do you think it is to remain original/true to yourself when writing as a pose to writing to what the readers want and what will sell?
I can’t stress enough that the only way to remain original is to be yourself. When I write, I dig into my own soul even though it is usually very painful. People who are in touch with their own souls will be able to tell when it is real. There is nothing greater than raw emotion in my eyes. I don’t know how to be anything other than myself. It is all I have ever been even if others weren’t accepting of it.
When did you first discover the power of language and words- how has it developed?
Music is my other love. I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for certain words in certain songs. I was just a little girl when I learned the impact that it had on me. Ever since then, I have found words to be powerful. The power has developed because I saw the effect it had on me. With experiences and age, you learn deeper meanings to certain things.
As a poet and writer there are stereotypical conception about what kind of person you might be before people know you – have you ran into these stereotypes yourself and how do you deal with these?
Every single day and I ignore them. Some people think that just because you show emotion, you are weak. They think that they know what composes you, whole. They think that they have to alter themselves in order to communicate with you. Although I wish to change some people’s views on certain aspects, I just want people to be themselves. As not only a writer, but a person who has certain eyes that can see through some things, I value authenticity and integrity. I think that there is nothing more noble than someone being themselves. I don’t care about opinions, really, or else I wouldn’t have published my books. While these books are me spilling out my emotions, at times, they only compose 3% of me. Also, some is fiction. I have so many more layers. I also believe that you don’t know yourself fully–so how can they?
You said you’ve been writing since you were 7 years old- How has your mindset as a writer developed and evolved and how has this effected your work?
Of course it evolved. I feel like your mind and heart can grow every single second, depending on what you feed them both. I feel like God has blessed me with a gift, but with that gift, comes time. Time has held many experiences for me and I still believe that there are many more that I have to go through. Everything inspires me and my writing stems from that. I can write intellectual papers, but my favorite is what comes from within. I’m introspective.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Wherever I exist.
Do you think your Albanian culture has aided or slightly hindered your writing career?
Yes, I am Albanian, and although that is my nationality, my writing comes from the soul. Nothing external can negatively affect my writing–only positively. If anything were able to hinder it, then it wouldn’t be real to me. I don’t let anything come between anything that I love.
What do you think- at present, are the biggest issues the Albanian community faces ?
I think that there are a lot of issues, especially regarding unity. I feel like our people are very divided as a whole because we tend to let everything come in between us. My father was a human rights activist, so I hold my nationality very close to me and although I do think that there are so many issues that need to be fixed, we have some beautiful aspects to our culture that I pray we hold on to.
A book we NEED to read in 2017?
They hold the truth. If written, they are immortal.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is just powerful. I’ve read it over 350 times, I’m not exaggerating.
What has been the biggest challenge to overcome when writing, editing and publishing FEEL?
The emotions get heavy at times. You can feel too human, and that, can be very painful.
FEEL explores a lot of different themes and emotions- was there anything that you took out during the editing stage- if so why?
No, I didn’t take anything out. I wanted everything to be raw and uncut. I also edit all of my work myself, so the only things that I fixed are the grammar and the spelling that I overlooked while I was writing the book.
If you could pick one favorite page out of FEEL, which would it be and why?
3. I don’t know why, but this number has always had significance. I actually just turned the page while I was writing this and saw that it is the beginning of the book. 3 has always been my favorite number. Every single page is equal to me. Every single word comes out of my soul.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Along with passing the New York Bar Exam and publishing my 7 books, I have found peace and happiness. God’s work, not mine.
Best advice you could give aspiring writers?
If it doesn’t come from your core, don’t write it.
As a New Yorker, writer, creative and female can you tell us about what kind of atmosphere there is and has been since the new US president has been announced?
I love New York City. I saw both sides of it. We are a diverse group of people. We fight for what we believe in and I think that is beautiful. For me, it has always been poetry over politics.
What does being a female author in 2017 mean to you?
Everything. Writing is everything to me.
What does success look like to you?
To me, success means following God’s plan to the best of my ability. As long as my heart and soul are filled with a love that is immortal and a life that is beautiful even in its ugliness, that is my definition of success.
What can we expect from you in 2017?
I have never been a fan of announcements. I would rather just create.