Writing through the pain
Writing, like any art form, gives substance to our feelings. Art is emotion made solid. Whether a painting, a song or a story, we feel through art. Art is the purest way to express our feelings with each other whether it's screaming along to a chorus in the car or crying in the dark during a movie. We live through the art of each other.
When I was writing Jom the Light Wielder, I was in a bad space. I had fallen in love with the wrong man and my heart was in pieces. My instinct during those dark moments of life is to write dark, disturbing stories while listening to 80s emo bands. Edgar Allen Poe by way of The Cure. But I was in the middle of the story and I couldn't just write dark twisted tales. Although it was the second of three books--typically the darkest part of a trilogy--and I knew there would be dark times ahead for Jom and his friends, I couldn't bring myself to jump completely into the abyss. Not that I didn't dip my foot into it, though. There are quite a few chapters of the book that are dark and disturbing--Dreams of Shadows Casting People, Crnobog and of course, The Lighthouse.
It was while I was writing The Lighthouse that I realized I needed to confront my emotions about my break-up. I needed to express what I was feeling...all the love and all the hate. All the hurt but also all the hope. As much as I wanted to wallow in my heartache, I had to believe there were brighter days ahead. Finding a way to survive the night and see the dawn is all we can do sometimes.
The story about my relationship was worked and re-worked, discarded then brought back. I couldn't find the right words to express what I needed to without resorting to cheesy, drippy dialog or characters. So I put that chapter aside and and sloughed forward. Then I wrote a chapter about hope. I hadn't intended to. I was just writing, letting my fingers act as a conduit to something other than my thoughts and it spilled out. The Crystal Heart Song of Rafk became a touchstone for my heart. Suddenly, I knew where Jom would go.
And I knew where my heart would go as well.
I re-worked the story about my relationship and layered it into the over-arching narrative. Suddenly, this dark, depressing middle of the trilogy became a story of hope and wonder. There were horrible moments and there was loss and tears and depression. But ultimately, Jom, like me, came through the darkness.
When people say their art helps get them through the rough times, they rarely can express exactly how it helps. Hand waving and 'it just helps' doesn't explain anything. For me, writing about my loss meant being honest with myself in a way that was raw and unbiased. It was confronting those dark thoughts. Not to suppress them or ignore them or shame them, but to show them up for all to see because it's all right to feel that way sometimes. It's all right to have dark thoughts, to wish bad things and to sob into your pillow and to sometimes just feel dead inside. We can't be the person we're meant to be if we don't embrace all of that.
I am who I am because of my losses and my victories, my failures as much as my successes. I try to be a better man most days. Some days I don't. Some days I just want to see the world burn. Thankfully most days I want to build a better world though. I learn from my mistakes (usually) and try to do better (mostly.)
And I'll continue to write about what goes on in my heart and in my head. I'll couch my feelings in silliness and wrap my thoughts in stories. After all, storytelling is the art of telling the truth through lies.