Breakthrough: Touching the Darkness Within

I had wondered, in a post last year, if perhaps my writing wasn’t as strong as it could be because I wasn’t reaching deep enough inside of myself. I wasn’t accessing the scary parts, the parts that trigger deep emotion. That perhaps I feared touching those raw, scary, dark parts of my psyche.

One of my “stretch” resolutions this year was to reach deeper—deeper into my characters and deeper into myself. And to try not to be afraid to do it. To see if I could touch the darkness within and emerge whole.

I didn’t realize when I made that resolution that I would be facing it so early in the year. I have a short story I’m working on, and I knew it would hit some vulnerable, raw parts of me. But I thought it was a good story, and one that needed telling, so I decided to write it anyway.

On Monday, I started the first draft. I wrote quickly at first, but as I got closer and closer to the heart of the matter, to the tender area, suddenly my internal saboteur popped up.

I NEEDED to check my email. Then Facebook. And I absolutely HAD to figure out how to program Outlook to alert me at a certain time (I failed to do that, by the way). When I next looked at the clock, I only had a couple of minutes left before I had to pack up. I decided to play Solitaire until I “ran out of time.” I knew exactly what was happening, but on Monday (following a long night up with a sick Toddler) I lacked the energy and focus to beat the saboteur down.

I’d danced on the fringe of my resolution, but I hadn’t faced it.

Tuesday I had to wait for the library to open, so I sat in my car and opened my story document. This time, I gritted my teeth and took the plunge. The words poured out—and so did the tears. Sitting in my car crying over my laptop, I was very glad I was not working in a public place like a coffeehouse!

Red-eyed but happy, I entered the library. I had faced the darkness and won!

So, is what I wrote any good? Will it make others feel as I felt? I don’t know yet. I’m going to let it sit until next Monday and revisit it. I know it needs some work. Then I’ll have some readers look at it.

All I know is that it came from someplace deep inside me, and I hope it touches someplace deep inside those who read it.

When was your first breakthrough when you wrote something that truly moved readers emotionally? How did it feel?


GoosesQuill FB

How To Tap the Darkness Within

We were discussing in our Advanced Novel Workshop with Jonathan Maberry about digging deep and putting your pain on the page. Jonathan talked about how he has found his writing highly cathartic. Tiffany Schmidt talked about the difficulty of writing emotional scenes and then finding a way to leave the pain in the book and not let it color your real life. As Jonathan said, leave the tears on the page.

Except in a very few instances, I have not shed tears while I write. I have not felt emotionally drained like so many writers talk about in their blogs. Apparently, I have not tapped into my deeper levels of pain, anger, darkness, and, yes, joy, love, and healing and laid them bare in my writing.

This could explain why beta readers feel my characters are not quite “real” or that they don’t “connect” with them on a deep level. It’s always a struggle before I get the characters in shape.

Why can’t I access these deeper places? There could be a few reasons. One, I don’t HAVE deeper places. Two, I lack the empathy to connect to other people. Three, I’m afraid to go into the darkness.

As for number one, I’m sure I have deeper places. I know I feel things deeply at times, and seemingly benign things like commercials can unexpectedly bring a welter of feelings in me. Examining number two shows that I am close to my family and while my close friends are not many in number, the friendships run deep. So maybe I’m just afraid to go into the darkness?

It is true that I don’t like letting strong emotions loose. I find it very, very hard to put emotional genies back in the bottle. I have an anxiety disorder, so once emotion wells up, it often spirals out of control. It can impact my life for days—not a good thing when you have a toddler to take care of. As a survival technique, I have gotten very good at surpressing the anxiety, but perhaps that comes at the cost of cutting myself off from connecting to the world as wholly as I might like. Which then might mean I can’t connect my characters to the reader the way I should.

I don’t doubt there’s some subconscious fear there. But the other side of the coin is that I don’t really know HOW to access those stronger emotions. Not consistently and effectively. If my character is sad and I’m not, how do I call that up? Or anger? Or fear? And I don’t know how to turn them off when I’m done. Maybe I can call on one of my actor friends to help me with that.

So what do you think? Do you need to be so emotionally invested in your book that you cry (or want to) at times while writing it? Should it drain you emotionally?

And do you have tips on how to access those emotions—and then leave them behind when you’re done?

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien