Writing from a Dark Place

Last week I had some dark days. Sammie, my cat who has oral carcinoma, stopped eating. Well, not entirely. But she refused her Fancy Feast moist food and mostly pushed her tuna fish around the bowl while eating very little of it. She picked at her dry food, but left the bulk of it uneaten and soggy from drool. After several months of basically ignoring the inevitable, I assumed that the tumor had finally grown to the point of discomfort and would soon grow to the point where decisions would have to be made.

I made an appointment with the vet, but in the meantime, I spent every available moment with Sammie, coddling and cuddling her.

Tuesday, I attended a Pennwriters meeting where I learned of a call for submissions for inspirational stories for cat lovers. So Wednesday I sat down at my computer and began to pour out Sammie’s story. I figured if it didn’t get accepted, at least it would be something I could hold onto, a remembrance of my kitty girl.

Writing that first draft was like surgery without anesthesia. I laid my heart open. I wept. Then I had to pull myself together and go teach yoga. It probably wasn’t the best choice of times to write that sort of thing. But I think it’s good. For a first draft.

Thursday, I took Sammie to the vet, braced for bad news and armed with information about pain meds. Instead, I learned that the tumor hasn’t grown all that much. Instead, Sammie has an ulcer near the tumor that was inflamed and infected. Her horrible breath was testimony to the presence of bacteria. So instead of pain meds, I’m giving her antibiotics. Instead of being on final countdown, we’re back to living with this disease day-by-day.

Which leaves me with Sammie’s story. I still intend to finish it and to submit it. I want to keep the emotional impact that I poured into the piece when I was at one of my darkest moments. However, I still need to revise and polish it. I need to go back into that dark space in my mind, back to the sadness of that day, in order to finish it. And I don’t want to.

Writing is often like that. To involve the reader, we have to put emotion on the page. To put emotion on the page, we have to go inside, cut our souls until they bleed and then pour every drop of blood and every tear into our story. When we’re already experiencing a dark day, it’s not much of a stretch. We’re already there. Might as well take advantage and write about it. But now that I’ve come out it into the light…now that Sammie is happy and I’m relieved, I have to put myself back into that mind-frame.

Is it any wonder that so many writers drink?

Okay, I don’t drink. Chocolate is my drug of choice. I have a drawer full of the stuff. Today, I will need it. This afternoon I will revisit my dark place and finish the story. And afterwards, I’ll emerge and have a Lindor truffle.


Joyce said…
Great post, Annette!

I'm reluctant to visit those dark places, too, but it makes our writing so much richer if we can immerse ourselves in the experience. Not fun, but our readers will appreciate it!

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