Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing in the Dark

Not long ago I completed an essay entitled, "Writing in the Dark."  It's a personal piece, rather introspective and honest, about my long-standing, now-nearly-forty-year-old-practice of writing in the darkness.

The reasons for writing this one?  It occurred to me a few weeks ago that the bulk of my work has been produced at night (either early morning, or late night, and on some days--both ends).  I've carried on as a 60-hour-a-week pastor who essentially does God's work in the light, but who writes in darkness.

As I have reflected upon how the darkness has impacted my writing, I've come to some fascinating conclusions.  Darkness--especially early morning darkness--is eerily silent.  On those days when I begin writing at four or five a.m., for example, I discover, even surrounded by sleeping family, a sense of isolation and utter seclusion.  So much so, in fact, that every time I hear a toilet flush or a shower nozzle spraying I am suddenly startled by the fact that I am not alone.  Sometimes I am relieved.  And oddly, at other times I feel a tinge of anger, as if someone has encroached upon something sacred or profound. 

I have written in the dark for nearly forty years now out of a sense of necessity, however, rather than preference.  Indeed, I love to write in the light.  I cherish those days--now very few--when I can write from the sunshine of the back deck or looking out of the vantage point of my high office window across the creek.  But this is rare, and most of my words are produced in the stark contrast of moonlight or, at times when the clock scrolls past midnight, in the near-total-exhaustion of a day lived and the fast-moving tick of yet another deadline.  And sometimes at midnight I know that I will soon rise to begin writing where I left off.  The darkness, even in the dead of winter, is very brief.  Especially if one does not sleep through it, but writes in it.

In some respects, I write in the darkness so that others can enjoy the light.  Writing in the darkness does mean that I will have few, if any, interruptions.  Writing in the darkness can also mean that I am able to communicate with some editors who live on the other side of the world, such as England or Australia, those lucky few living inside their halo of illumination where I can dream of the light, too . . . enjoying the sunshine when all about me is night.

I write in the darkness, read in the darkness, make outlines for new books and whole chapters in the darkness.  Sometimes I take another vitamin.  Sometimes I fall asleep.  Sometimes I wake to the perfect sentence, or entire poems dreamed whole, or I pace back and forth like a caged animal in my underwear, searching for pages to devour, awaiting any shaft of light, any hand, that might be tossing a bone my way.  I have written, by now, millions of words in the dark.  Millions.  And shall write more. In the dark.

I will write in the darkness until the light comes.

What kind of work have I produced in the dark?  Not sure.  More work than anyone has been able to publish, though.  But perhaps it's a winnowing process.  Sifting the light from the darkness. 

I see the light.  But usually the darkness stands.  That's where I write, after all.

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