Monday Musings: The Darkness Within Writing

xfiles-want-to-believe

SCULLY: I’m asking you to look at yourself.

MULDER: Why? I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.

SCULLY: We’re not FBI any more, Mulder. We are two people who come home at night, to a home now. I don’t want that darkness in my home.

MULDER: Scully, this is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. This is who I was before I met you. It’s what I do, it’s everything I know.

SCULLY: Write it down. Put it in a book.

MULDER: You’re asking me to give up?

SCULLY: No. I can’t tell you to do that, Mulder. But I can tell you that I won’t be coming home.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

So I was re-watching The X-Files: I Want to Believe the other night, after I’d spent the past few months re-watching the entire series in preparation for the new mini-series. And while the film is just as mediocre as I remember, this scene and discussion stood out to me, being a writer myself. ‘Write it down’, Scully says. And indeed, writing can be a great outlet for the emotion and pain felt through our lives; and from this I was inspired to write about the subject myself – do all writers in fact, have an inherent darkness within themselves?

It may be slightly clichéd to depict authors and poets (or any kind of artist) as ‘tortured souls’ who express their anguish through the written word, but it can be true to say that everyone who creates is trying to say something about the world that they live in. As implied in the scene above, in their line of work Mulder and Scully have truly seen the very worst of mankind; sadistic and remorseless killers, scientists playing God and corrupting the human form, and those within the government who hide dark truths from an unsuspecting public. While The X-Files depicts paranormal and fantastical happenings within the context of ‘the real world’, even if a writer is creating another world of their own, there’s a good chance that events or characters will serve as a commentary or allegory on the state of our own society. Dystopian futures paint a bleak picture of what could feasibly happen if certain things continue the way they are, while seemingly utopian futures will generally always have something sinister going on behind the scenes, or again truths being hidden. In this sense, it could be said that writing in fact shines a light on the darker side of mankind. One of my all-time favourite authors, Margaret Atwood, expresses how it can bring things we may not choose to acknowledge, or attempt to sweep under the carpet, to light:

‘Writing is also the primary way in which the unknown, the obscure, the undervalued, and the neglected can become known. All over the world, writing has been the means by which light is shed on darkness. Whether the darkness of oppressive regimes, of lives lived in poverty, of the oppression of women, of discrimination of so many kinds.’

Margaret Atwood, quote from http://scroll.in/article/802970/twenty-one-brilliant-things-only-margaret-atwood-could-say-and-she-did

Of course, as mentioned, the ‘darkness’ can also refer that within the writer themselves. It can be very therapeutic to express feelings through writing. A lot of the poems I have written have been my attempt to channel bouts of depression I have experienced into something meaningful, and how one can find the strength to lift themselves out of it, or at least to power through and carry on. The poems I wrote for the Writer’s Digest November PAD Challenge last year seemed to end up having this general theme, leading me to put them together in a collection called ‘The Dance of Dark and Light’ – the title taken from a line from one of its poems ‘A Valley Unveiled’, which emphasises the balance between those two very forces; and that one cannot exist without the other. The first verse, in fact, somewhat reinforces the previous quote from Ms. Atwood – a happy accident!

The sunlight shifts across,
Lifting the mountain’s shade,
Shining light on the obscure,
And hiding that already seen.

As said, writing can shine light on the obscure or neglected, but equally that darkness must exist in the first place. As writers, it is almost as if we are the ones who hold the torch – every story or poem has something to say about the world, and you can generally count on it being a truth to expose, a wrong to attempt to put right – while of course there is a place for writing about the beauty of our world too, this is usually able to be expressed because the writer has literally stopped to smell the roses – choosing to ignore the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind and look for what is truly beautiful in the world; and of course it is rather telling that this will generally be about the sights, sounds and smells that nature bestows on us, rather than anything man-made.

Writing is also, of course, simply an escape from the real world for many of us, where we can spend time in our own inner creative world. I read a rather inspiring post yesterday about how solitude and ‘stillness’ is often necessary to unleash our true creative potential, but how equally we must keep one foot in the ‘real world’ and the other in our inner creative one. Essentially, the real world can be both a distraction and an inspiration to our writing at the same time; as writers, it is our constant battle to try and find that balance. I feel that this balancing act is not unlike that shown in the forces of light and dark, and in particular the philosophy of Yin and Yang, which was a key inspiration in my writing of ‘A Valley Unveiled’ (in fact the original prompt given for this poem was to write a ‘United’ or ‘Divided’ poem, or one that combines both – this combined both, and is indeed similar to the paradox of the relationship between the real world and the creative one). The last verse of the poem, from which the title for the collection itself, ‘The Dance of Dark and Light’ was derived, I feel is especially relevant in this case:

They both collide upon this rock,
Changing places with the other,
The great dance of dark and light
That endures for all of time.

Indeed, for us writers, the two worlds constantly collide, yet we battle to remove ourselves from the reality around us at the same time. Perhaps Mulder is an example of a person who is simply not capable of this; he lets the darkness consume him, and often shuts out the lighter side of reality around him (i.e. the simple pleasures of having a home and significant other to come home to), but he cannot channel it into something creative. Scully meanwhile, yearns to stay within the ‘real world’ (and what can be easily explained by science), trying to ignore the darkness that pervades it, which may be an equally futile endeavour. The complexity of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, and the dark descent of the former, ironically, is one of the brighter spots of a somewhat lacklustre film. But as I watched this scene I found Scully’s dismissive attitude to simply tell Mulder to ‘Put it in a book’ interesting, and it led me to question whether this is truly what we as writers do – to attempt to turn the darker side of ourselves into something meaningful and beautiful. Or is it that we are shining a light on buried truths, of so many things unsaid? I’d be curious to hear other’s thoughts on the subject…

Check out my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, available NOW for download as an eBook on Amazon. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017BZBH6M

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