I am almost done writing a novella I have been struggling to “get right” for quite awhile. But I believe I have turned the last corner, and see the work coming together. It is almost there.
Wanna know how I know?
Today, The Darkness arrived.
You may know The Darkness, that depression-like doubt that sets in and forces you to question every aspect of what you have written. This is the time in your process when you question why you are even allowed to live. This is the time in the process where every comma looks offensive, every word seems ill-chosen, and the entire story appears to be an arrogant waste of the world’s time.
The Darkness is no joke to writers. We dread its relentless approach. When The Darkness gallops up, rears up on its jet black steed, and points a bony, accusatory finger some writers surrender to its might and stop writing. It makes me sad whenever I hear a writer succumbed because I believe that The Darkness is part of the process.
For me, this is when the project gets carefully reading and sentences get tightened and adverbs get slaughtered and every moment of the story gets checked for authenticity to the best of my ability.
Stephen King would disagree with me. He says he does not do much rewriting. Neil Gaiman claims not to do much either. Bravo to both of those masters, but for me, writing is a little more like oil painting. My process requires rewriting where sentences are massaged and beats are tested to ensure they are organic to the whole. Work.
And yes, this opens me up to The Darkness.
It always happens when I suspect that if I just go a little farther, all elements of the story will snap into place and I will know what needs to happen for the tale to be done.
Right when I need to move forward the most, The Darkness arrives like a devil whispering seductively in my ear, “You don’t need to finish the story. Come on, let’s go play. Nobody wants this one anyway.”
Sometimes The Darkness sounds like every teacher whoever mocked, every adult who ever dismissed. And The Darkness would like nothing more than for a writer to surrender
The key to surviving in The Darkness is to just keep working.
While it is admittedly a struggle every time, what works for me is confronting The Darkness with the reality of what is actually on the page. I read my work out loud. I see it and say it and hear it for what it is. This challenges The Darkness to put up or shut up, to reveal what sucks so bad that it awoke The Great and Powerful Darkness.
And then comes the easy part. You see, if The Darkness is right and something does suck, all that is left to do is to make it suck less and suck less … until it is good, until it is organic, until it lives (notice I do not say “until it is great”. Try doing that and your soul will be consumed. Just work to make it organic and let others worry about what “great” is).
From this perspective, The Darkness is not the bane of a writer’s existence but a gift shepherding the work to completion. When we as writers come to that realization, there is only one thing left to say:
Hello Darkness, my old friend…