I was introduced to the hot seat back in London in the 70s when I joined a Gestalt therapy group in Chelsea. We sat on cushions on the floor and though our hot seat was simply another cushion, it was anything but cushy once you took your turn at the head of the circle. First the confession, then the grilling from the other members. Also from the ever-charming Hungarian-born American who led the group. Lies or half-truths were exposed immediately. By revealing our innermost feelings we hoped for revelation. But we were content to have even a smidgeon of more understanding.
Then in the late 90s I was drawn to a different sort of hot seat. A simple desk chair, from which I sought again to reveal my innermost feelings while typing away at my memoir. The grilling would take place later, at the writer’s workshop when I read my chapter aloud. Meanwhile, at home, when the going got rough I moved operations over to the bed. Or the floor by the bed. Or the couch, hoping that a change in position might shake up the brain cells or the memory cells. But no matter where I went, it was always the hot seat again. The hot seat whenever I was putting myself on the line.
After a period on institutional chairs as an undergrad and then as a grad student, I advanced back to my own desk chair. I had internalized all the different voices, and now there was no difference between reading aloud to myself or reading aloud to the group. Inwardly, I heard all the comments, the questions and objections as well as the praise.
I completed my first memoir several years ago, and since then I have been working on the second. If I thought the second book would be easier, I was mistaken. This time when the going got rough I removed myself to the library to work, or a café. Again, a different location proved useful, but only temporarily.
Since I began writing memoir I have tried different computers, different brands and keyboards and operating systems and fonts. It has felt much the same as when I was painting and drawing, experimenting with different papers and pens and brushes and canvases and colors and strokes as I hoped for some new inspiration. Yet with writing, as with art, while the surface appearance may have altered, the content and concept, the depth of perception or lack thereof, did not.
So now I am back on my old desk chair. The gray one from Staples purchased decades ago, covered now with fabric that matches my workspace. Because now I accept that wherever I place myself, the story I am telling remains the same. Or rather, the truth of the story does not change. As I seek to confront that truth, wherever I sit will always be the hot seat. And, while I might jump up when it gets too intense, and take a walk around the apartment or a walk around the block, I return to the confessional chair. Where my fingers will be in easy reach of my instrument of choice. No matter how tortuous it may feel, or how it might burn. I place my body there.