Monday, December 19, 2011

Let's talk about the dark side

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. 

Vita Sackville-West


I've been thinking about this for the past few days, but I'm wondering what you all think of it. I wonder if you even think about it at all.  

I'm talking about the dark side. You know, that bit about writing that's there, but that doesn't get mentioned all that often.

Like the fact that it's more of an addiction than a passion. Or else it's a damn near all-consuming passion. One that makes me euphoric when I'm doing it, but leaves me suffering from withdrawal when I'm not. The more we write, the more we want to write. This is good in that few people are lucky enough to find something as constructive to be addicted to. Still, we're stuck in our minds half of the time. The other half is spent with at least a small part of us wishing that we were stuck in our minds and writing. This can (and has) led to some aggravation, embarrassment and tension in the past. Fact is, it's really difficult to maintain a balance when it comes to writing. If I stop paying attention for a few weeks, I spend most of my time bashing out words. And when I say most, I mean at least three quarters of my available time. And it's not like I don't have other things to do. I'm not saying that I just lie down and forget to live my life. I'm saying that part of me is always fighting the urge to write at the expense at some badly neglected part of my life.

Another thing: We're more sensitive than people think. In fact, I'd say we're more sensitive than we'd like to believe. Think about it. If something happens, normal people gloss over it and move on, or store it away to look at once in a while. We don't do that. We put everything away for later. And then when we go poking at those things so that we can get the right words and emotions onto the page. So not only do we feel everything, but we feel them for a long time. Writing is a good way to get those feelings out, but I know from own experience how much it hurts to call up certain memories, but I can't just avoid them, because they'll crop up in my writing whether I want them to or not. So if I don't willingly face something, writing will eventually force me to.

We go digging in the darkest corners of our psyche to find what we need when we're writing. Think about it... those thoughts and emotions that you're giving to the most evil villain that you can imagine? It comes from you. Your own fears. Your own prejudices. All of that comes from the dark places of your own soul. At the same time, all that is good in the story comes from you too. But the fact is, writing puts all of it out there. And most of us hope that our writing will be publicly consumed. I think that if we really think about how much of us goes into what we write, a lot of us would consider giving up. (Except for the fact that our writing addictions would run us ragged.) It opens us to a new and very special world of pain. Especially when it comes to rejection.  

The last point I want to mention is one that got me thinking on these lines in the first place: We're self-aware - sometimes painfully so. When we dig about in our psyches, we discover things that take most people forever to even become aware of. We explore those things, so we get know ourselves better than most people. Think I'm kidding? Find someone you trust and if your conversation turns serious, start talking about who you are. You'll find you're far more aware of what's going on inside of you than your friend about him/herself. Good? Most of the time. Until you find out something that you might not have wanted to know. I recently figured out a big motivation in my life, and it wasn't what I thought. It's actually quite twisted and after I discovered this part of myself, I took weeks to settle into this new awareness. Hell, I'm still not really comfortable and I know that I was doing just fine until I made this discovery. I can't help thinking that I wouldn't even have thought along the lines that lead to my discovery if I hadn't been a writer. 

So was Vita Sackville-West right? Does writing help me "score above my fellows"? I'd say yes, but sometimes there's a cost involved. A high cost? Possibly, but then nothing that's worthwhile comes for free. And right now, there's nothing that feels as worth while as creating and if used correctly and constructively, even the dark side to writing can be to our benefit...

What say you? Thoughts?

Any other dark aspects to add? What gets to you sometimes?


  1. Hi Misha
    I'm so glad your studies are over.

    Oh yes, the dark side of me is hidden well. I would never act out on any of those villainous ideas, but they are there, fueled by life and learning, experience and trust or mistrust. The disappointment we face and abuse by others fan the flames of our writer souls.

    Great post.

  2. It took me awhile to realize that most other people don't think like I do. When I was younger I took it for granted that people generally experienced things the same way, but we don't. We're all different. And I think there is some truth to the idea that creative-types tend to be more sensitive and self-aware, which is what drives us to express ourselves in words or art.

  3. Outstanding post.

    We writers are sensitive creatures.

    They do say that the characters we create...have a part of us in them.

  4. Sometimes I think my psyche is set on repeat. Most of my story ideas center around a family dynamic which is essentially the same more or less in each story. I've puzzled over this for quite a while, psychoanalyzing myself the best I can. I thought I'd finally broken away from it in my most recent manuscript only to just have it pop up again. Maybe I will finally move past it one day if I ever figure myself out. :-D

  5. I've learned SO much about myself since I started writing. So, I completely agree with your comment about not even thinking of the things that lead to your discovery if you weren't a writer. I feel that, too.

    In the end, though, I think it's a good thing. Whether we're consciously aware of these things or not, they're in our psyche and they affect how we act, how we react to others, all of that. At least being aware of it and knowing yourself that well, you have a chance to use it to shape yourself into the person you want to be, rather than just blindly letting it affect you.

  6. what gets me the most is probably feeling like I need an agent or a book contract to be a "validated" writer and for the whole thing to "mean" anything. I want to be in a rush, but that's self-destructive. it's such a patient process! and that to me is one of the darkest sides. it is SO HARD waiting.

  7. One of the things about being a writer--for better or worse--is the deliberation we pour into our words.

    I've had people comment, when I speak, on my word choice, that I lean to invoking images. Not sure how great that's supposed to be when I'm just trying to have a basic conversation.

  8. I discover constantly a lot of people don't think I like I do.

    Writing is necessary to me. It allows me to leave my own head.

  9. Misha, SHHHHH!!! Don't blog so loudly. We don't want our little secret getting out.


    Actually, I think I blushed when you said writing is more an addiction. Honest blush. I agree that writing leaves you more aware of the moments in life around you, but it also robs you of many of those moments. Ah, where is the balance?

    Speaking of which, I should go make my kids some dinner, right?

  10. Agree. Especially about being sensitive--sometimes my mind will dredge up things that happened a while ago.

  11. I like the quote, and your discussion is good. A lot to think about.

  12. I couldn't agree more, that writers are extra sensitive and self-aware. I would also add that we're a supremely self-critical lot, and while that means we may suffer more in the short term, I believe it makes us stronger and wiser in the long run.
    Fantastic post; thank you for reminding me of this seldom-mentioned perspective.

  13. Some fantastic points you've made here, and a lot of it I was subconsciously aware of, but hadn't put into words.

    On sensitivity, that is so very true. Things stay on repeat in my mind for days on end, and I have to be very careful what I watch. I may be able to write violence and horror, but I can only watch limited amounts of it. One horror movie will supply years of writing material for me!

  14. Because I write humor, I see potential humor where most wouldn't. But sometimes, a situation is NOt my cat. I have to put her down soon. There's nothing to grin about, but my mind keeps wanting to find a twist to the story. Perhaps I'm twisted. Also, if I may make a gentle a comment...the font color on your blog is very light, hard to read. :)

  15. I found this exceptional post very interesting. I agree with the quote.
    Everyone is different, some are more sensitive than others and different points of view on a similar subject make for unique writing.
    Misha, happy Christmas holiday to you.

  16. I have thought about this quite a lot. It's frightening to think that something you do has so much control over your emotional wellbeing, but for me, I get grumpy and I get confused about life when I'm not writing. The fact that I am so entwined with writing is scary. But at the same time it feels so natural. Like I get grumpy if I don't eat. I need to eat to survive, therefore, I do it. I tend to see my writing the same way. I need to write to live, therefore I get grumpy if I don't do it.


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