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?

Making Memories Work

Hi all! Please welcome Rosalind Adam to the blog for yet another episode of GPF! Ros is an awesome lady and one of my favorite bloggers. (Yes yes. I know I say that all the time.) So please head over to her blog to give her some love.

Making Memories Work

I am always amazed at the memories that lurk in the depths of my brain… or wherever it is memories live. In my blog bio I admit to being a nostalgia obsessive and many of my posts are inspired by memories, but I’ve earned money from memories too.

Using memory as a starting point for writing can produce unexpected outcomes. One of my favourite writing exercises, especially when working with a new group, is to have 5 minutes free flow writing about a room remembered from childhood.  It always produces surprises. People write about things they didn’t remember they remembered and rooms can hold particularly powerful memories.

In 2008 I was the facilitator of a Heritage Lottery funded project collecting memories about Leicester’s Jewish Community in the 1940s and 50s and creating a book, a website and a touring display. The 70 elderly contributors thoroughly enjoyed the writing workshops even though for many it was their first taste of creative writing. I’d known most of them all my life so I enlisted the help of Miriam Halahmy  for the workshop activities. They loved her and her contribution was invaluable.

We worked together for three months collecting memories that tumbled onto notepads in a random, disjointed way. I then had the job of turning the memories into the Jewish Voices book. What an experience that was, slotting the memories together to tell a story that had never before been told, about a tiny, self-contained community that experienced an enormous upheaval in the 1940s as families of Londoners poured into Leicester to escape the bombs. Together with refugees from Europe, they helped to create the large, diverse community that emerged from the war. The project website is Leicester Jewish Voices.

The format of this memory project can be used with all kinds of groups, not only religious communities. There are memories everywhere and if we don’t record them they’ll be lost forever… but if a memory project isn’t for you then at least give the writing exercise a try. You’ll be surprised at what emerges onto the page and, who knows, it could provide the spark for that next best seller.

For more about free flow writing and the memory project visit my website or my blog.

Thanks so much for this lovely story, Ros! I’m dying of curiosity, so I’m going to ask all my readers this: If you could write about any personal memory or moments in history, what would it be?

Then, I just want to remind you all that I only have three GPF slots left for this year, so if you still want to post (about any writing/literary topic) on my blog, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Have a great weekend everyone!