Grappling with the Dark: Why do writers write?

Like probably  thousands of other bloggers, I have a manuscript (or two or three), the oddball short stories and a sizable list of ideas sitting in the drawers and files. And like every writer, I have to face life (bills, kids, commitments) but those are pretty lame excuses to not write. Well, if you can’t beat the facts of life, why not join them?

Another reason I started this blog was to get into a regular writing habit. If I could just write what I know about life, then I’d get inspired to finish those other things. I’ve read the books, completed the exercises, joined a writer’s group but I’m still stuck in the no-man’s land of not really writing. I want to finish those stories, heck I’m making time to write this.

But as I took a critical eye back to what I remember about dropped projects (courtesy of Stephen King’s On Writing), I think I’ve pinpointed the problem. Have you ever read any of King’s novels? I read a trunk full of them as a teen and there’s some scary stuff in those books. King and similar authors expose the things that go bump in the night. I suppose it was probably cathartic to read. When I was a teen, a lot of stuff–from stupid to horrid–was happening in and around my life and world at the time, but we didn’t talk about it.  And maybe reading about those struggling against the darkness helped me feel like there was hope that I would see the other side.

We can’t fight the darkness if we pretend it doesn’t exist.

Spouses leave, friends (or at least friendships) die, we find weird lumps, pets get sick, kids screw up and life can just stink. When I got to the point in my drafts where the story needed to delve into the dark side of things, I backed off, smoothing out those wrinkles without actually resolving them. In other words, I didn’t tell the truth (as King notes is the only way to tell the story). I plastered a smile on the stories and then ran the other way.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)



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