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Finding the Darkness

One thing that I did not expect as I entered into writing was the darkness. At various times in my life the darkness has taken on different forms, but it remains a dark time. A time where I cannot seem to find the path, the end, or even companionship. Out of the three, the companionship is the hardest for me to do without.

Winter Loneliness

Some of the darkness was very much like being in a cave where I couldn't see the end; other times it was more like the photograph above: cold, barren and still. Other times, the darkness lay before me, and I dared not enter into it. Through it all, darkness remained constant.

Writers come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. For an introvert writer, the lonely stretches are welcome respites; for an extrovert writer they can be nigh on destructive. We adjust to it differently because of our natures, but acknowledging the existence is paramount.

Loneliness

Some of the darkest times remain with me, and will remain with me throughout my life. While in college, I had several art and writing friends. Our conversations were energetic, but we also understood some of the struggles we each faced. My closer circle of friends had no writing majors, and until my senior year, no art majors. While I needed my non-artistic close circle, without my artistic friends, I struggled. Now, a decade out of college, I realize this even more, and I work to correct it.

My close circle will probably always remain un-artistic in that they will remain out of the business. They might paint, weave or act, but their primary occupations are always something else. Yet, someone to walk beside me in the artistic world has always been something I craved. Someone who understood and appreciated art, but not necessarily another artist.

I'm still looking, but as I've opened up to my biological family and church about the art, they have learned more about it. Appreciate and understand may never be a part of who they are, but they have learned something about me.

Story

Sometimes the darkest periods come through or because of the story. I write murder mysteries, fantasy and historical fiction. While some can be rose-colored, I tend to face the darkness head-on. I develop storylines that follow human-trafficking, slavery, abuse, rape, murder, greed and who knows what else. The stories can become quite dark, and I don't like the darkness.

I'll put this into another perspective: I have never watched, nor will ever watch, The Passion of the Christ. In fact, most of the time, I prefer to remain away from Good Friday services because of the crucifixion of Christ. For some strange, idiotic reason, pastors believe that everyone in their church needs to hear (sometimes see) in excruciating detail what Christ went through because of our sins.

They dismiss those under the age of twelve, but keep everyone else.

I can become physically sick because of words. I might not feel the nails in my hands, but I can imagine how it feels; I can imagine the smells. I am a writer with a very active imagination, and in my personal life I remain away from certain films.

As a writer, I could have chosen to keep my stories pleasant for myself, but I also know that those stories need to be written. I cannot back away from them, but I can protect myself. I chose years ago to never write from the perspective of the murderer because I didn't want to be in those minds. I enter them long enough to plot murder, but not long enough to inhabit.

Dark stories often reveal the brightest lights at the end. To quote Sam from The Lord of the Rings: "How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass .... Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something."

As the writer, I create the darkness; I dive into it. I set up the stage, guide the reader through it, and finally show them the end of the long tunnel. Some darkness is not needed; some is; it takes a writer skill to walk the line between the two. It takes a reader discernment to know what is best for her.

Path

The life of an artist, be it a writer, actor, painter, singer or whatever, is not easy. There are mountains and valleys. Cold and heat; fertility and barrenness. It's a part of life for everyone, but sometimes the artist feels it more keenly than other people.

Darkness in one's path be it personal life or career can affect the other parts. Most of us realize this fact, but we don't always know how to correct it or even prevent it. Like all parts of life, balance is needed. The darkness can come from a career choice or it can come from a spell of little production. It might come from reevaluating one's choices.

When I received my first paycheck from my books, the number was not what I wanted to see. Not what I expected to see. I was alone in my house, and I broke down and cried for nearly ten minutes. It was probably one of the darkest times in my life, and I still haven't fully recovered from the shock. When you hit rock bottom, you climb up, but climbing up is still dark.

I wish I could say it will be the only time I hit rock bottom, but it will not be. It might be rock bottom now, but one day it might look like a ledge on the wall. It's dark, and it's the path I choose.

The Lights

Each of us know ourselves better than someone else might. We know our schedules, our bodies and our energy. I've learned that I need to take breaks from writing or my body feels the pain thereby preventing me from working more. I've learned I need to have people in my life who understand and appreciate art. Most of those, I find online.

Here are five things that every writer needs in life. Little lights that guide us along our paths.
  1. Friends and Family. Both artistic and non-artistic. The exact ratio will always be in flux, and for some artists a strong art community is essential. Personally, other writers are great to talk with, but I also need painters, dancers, actors, sculptors and others in my life for creative juices. As my non-artist friends and family learn more about writing, they feed me story ideas, and critique projects.
  2. Time alone. Once again, it will vary. I'm an introvert by nature so I need time alone to contemplate, reason and decide. It's hard for me to work in a large group for a long time. For others, working in a group helps. They might be individually working in a group, but the camaraderie stimulates the creative eye. The alone time, however, allows the mind to center on the artwork and life. We need that time to evaluate ourselves without distractions.
  3. Mission Statement. This one might sound weird, but it has helped. The simplest of statements strictly says why you do what you do. I think of it as the north star: you know where it stands and you can use it to direct your path. My simple statement (the one I give people when they ask) is "To create stories and images for the glory of God." For me, justice and beauty are two ways I glorify God through the weaving and writing. Glorifying God doesn't have to be sweet or safe, but can be dark, harsh and brutal.
  4. Education. Not necessarily college, but continue to learn whether through classes or through magazines. A writer needs to be well-rounded in culture, current events, history, and other fields. Depending on your particular writing area, you might delve more into science and less into fashion, but keeping abreast of both is worthwhile. Take the time to maintain your current interests, but expand into other fields as well. When you can, go to a conference targeting writers in general, your faith, or your particular genre.
  5. Life. The easiest way to encompass what makes you, you. This includes both your physical and spiritual lives. Exercise is good, and so is eating healthy, but it isn't always possible to do both. Learn to listen to your body as you write: know when you're tired and need to push, or tired and need to stop. Take time to appreciate beauty around you. Even in the darkest of times, you can find beauty. Find it, focus on it, and relax.
Darkness is part of a cycle called life. It comes around at regular intervals, but we don't always realize that it has reached us until we look around and are surprised we cannot see anything. When you know the path you need to walk, continue. Take smaller steps to prevent yourself from stumbling, but keep walking. When you cannot see your path, stop; evaluate and reconsider. It might take some time in the one location, but remain patient. The darkness is as much a part of growing as light is.

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