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Growing Up

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From Scary to Light

I receive an email per day from Writer Unboxed - you guessed it - on the topic of writing. Today's Halloween edition was composed by novelist Brunonia Barry and it deals with scary places. Barry writes that her agent challenged her to write a scary novel, and that she leaped at the challenge, only to find it more difficult than she originally anticipated. Here's her explanation:

"The first draft of my WIP [work in progress] started simply enough. The story was initially about fear of the dark, a universal taken to the extreme in a tale of isolation and disillusionment. But as my own disillusionment with society grew, that once simple idea became far darker. Instead of a universal genre story, it became far more personal. I realized that what I was writing about was the darkness inside myself.

Of course, that was where the narrative was always meant to go. I just didn’t know it when I started. I think our most poignant horror stories express the darkness inside all of us. But, to me, as a writer at this particular moment in history, I was having trouble going there. Everyday life was tough enough. More darkness was not something I craved." (Writing What Scares Us)

Barry's words hit home like one of the Red Sox baserunners in the recently concluded World Series. My blog entries have slowed to a trickle recently, and though I have excused myself to friends and family with the usual, "I'm too busy," and "I can't concentrate," the real reason is that my brain has gone dark. Though I have many tactics to protect my fragile positive outlook - don't watch news (ever), only skim headlines, limit Facebook, listen to NPR only til noon - election season and the proliferation of recent troubling events have moved into my mental space like the darkness creeping out of Sauron.

Sometimes my children are the bearers of the bad news, unwittingly bringing me to tears, such as William's evening announcement that some 60% of animal species are extinct or have moved toward extinction since 1970. I snapped at him to stop talking while trying not to burst into tears and had to wait several hours to explain how that broke my heart, and how I've been an environmental activist for twenty years trying to prevent such things.

Or Daniel asking me about the tragedy in Pittsburgh, or Aden reading the headlines from the IPCC report on climate change. My resolve to be hopeful quavers in these dark places, my bright vision of the kids' future dims. So on this day of All Hallow's Eve, where we typically scare and trick, I resolve to go the other direction. I've had enough of scares and darkness, and although Barry intends to challenge her fears and penetrate her dark spaces (a laudable and worthwhile goal), I plan to hand out candy and search for the light.  For the next few months I will be seeking out good news and hopeful headlines, positive sentiments and good examples. Not living in denial of the challenges we face, but welcoming the light that shines out of dark places like candles from the hollowed cores of orange pumpkins.

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