“Hello Darkness my old friend… I’ve come to talk to you again…”
Thank you Simon and Garfunkel, for perfectly expressing where my creative brain is right now. The only way I can describe it is as a dark spiral. In this dark spiral I have no talent, I’ve been wasting my time, I’m a joke, and will never ever finish a piece of writing that is worth anything.
In this dark spiral I am tiny. So tiny as to almost be invisible, and the darkness is so big, so powerful that it seems I will never find a light to escape its massiveness. “You loser,” the dark spiral says, “You think anyone will want to read this?” “That thing about the bloody t-shirt? Hack. Been done a million times.” “Are you serious? She says THAT? Your dialogue is… ridiculous.”
This dark spiral has a voice. A very specific one. And it knows my soft underbelly– “You will be humiliated.”
The dark spiral’s arrival usually coincides with me approaching a difficult spot in my writing. Where I am either questioning the project itself, or my ability to pull it off.
The thing is, this darkness is not my friend. It is in fact my sworn enemy. And if my life were a Hero’s Journey, this would be my ordeal. The low point. Where it seems fruitless to go on. “Uncle!” I cry.
How many times have you entered your own dark spiral? Where your doubt and fear and perceived lack of ability stop you from completing your work? The dark spiral is strong. And the fact is that most people don’t finish their books or screenplays. They get lost in that dark place and let it destroy their forward momentum.
Here are some ways to hack your way out of the cave…
1) Use your flashlight. This is your ability to actually recognize the spiral for what it is. Your fear. Once you shine a light on it and are AWARE of its true make up, you can find your way out of it.
2) Sit in it for a moment. Yes, it’s F***ING DARK in here. Crap. What you’re trying to do is really hard, and there are monsters. Lots of them. Hello monsters. Hello darkness my old friend. Wait, you’re not dying… you’re in the dark spiral and you’re not dying.
3) Know that this is part of the process. Every writing project, no matter how large or small, involves its own hero’s journey. Moments of triumph and moments where you are completely lost. Expect the dark spiral. Just knowing that it’ll be waiting for you at some point along the way diminishes its power.
4) Keep writing. Even if it’s gobbledygook. Don’t believe the dark spiral when it speaks. It’s a tricky bastard, whose goal is to make you drop your pen. Keep typing. Keep moving forward.
The most powerful weapon against the dark spiral is to accept it, sit in it for just a moment, then keep writing. Can you do this? Can you be that brave?
I love the old saying that it’s much better to have written a novel, than to write one. Hells yeah.
But it’s often in this dark spiral where you find your best ideas. The reason you are in the dark spiral is that your writing is asking you to go somewhere scary, somewhere new. And that’s where the treasure is located, my friend.
Take action! When faced with the dark spiral, use your flashlight. Recognize it for what it is. Sit in it for a moment. See that you don’t die. Understand that every writer experiences this. It’s part of the process. Then keep writing.
I’m staring at my pages right now. They are asking me to do something I’ve never done before. It’s terrifying.
Click. I just turned on my flashlight.
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