You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.
~ Edward Abbey
I don’t mean the physical dark… I mean are you afraid of the creative dark? That place of the unknown, the unseen, and the unacknowledged?
People, including writers and creatives, seem to be of two mindsets: one is the life-is-just-a-bowl-of-cherries camp (Lew Brown); and the other is life-is-a-struggle camp (Lucretius).
I admit that I love happily ever after endings. It’s why I love reading romances and mysteries and fairy tales. The endings are happy and satisfying.
I don’t do well with movies or books or media whose theme seems to be all doom and gloom. I don’t mind a good cry in the middle of a movie or book, or worrying about whether the hero and/or heroine will achieve the goal, but I don’t enjoy a story that doesn’t offer hope or the possibility of that happy ending.
Too much doom and gloom creates a desire to escape rather than to work towards change. That’s one reason that in times of war and economic downturn, romance novels sales climb. We want a happy ending–or at least the possibility of one if we work for it. None of us want to live sadly ever after.
But too much sugar and spice and everything nice is a denial of reality, of the darkness of pain, suffering, and grief that shadows the world.
For me, writing that is too glib, art that has no shadows, music written only in major chords, usually leaves me unchanged and unchallenged.
The best fiction writing, of any genre, takes its characters—and you the reader—through the deepest sorrows and fears, the most challenging of tests, and sometimes even the worst of circumstances. The dark is as much a part of any story as the light. Without it, there is no conflict. Without conflict, there is no tension, no reason to keep turning pages.
And in life, without the dark, there is no reason to grow in understanding and compassion or motivation to change.
Granted, it’s not easy to tap into that darkness when you write or create.
I often escape the computer and the words waiting to take form on the screen. I’ll go for a walk, work in the yard, or do any number of things that give me time and energy to shore up my courage for the next part of my journey into the dark.
But if I want the story to be true and meaningful, if I want my story to change the reader then that into the dark is where I must go.
No, it’s not easy. Nor should it be. But it in those dark places that creative treasure lies buried.
It is when you enter the dark, that you tell the most powerful stories, create the most powerful work…
And offer the gifts of hope and transformation.