April Editorial: Light The Dark
PHS Founder and Editor Trish Wylie, talks about the power of words, and how writing every day can shine a light in the darkness...
I’m a tad reflective this month, so get comfy. Cos there are more words than usual…
If you’ve been reading these for a while, you’ll know I’m all about the positive. Claiming ownership of your life, making time to do the things you love, never giving up and doing things that make you smile each day. I try very hard to live my life that way and am often told how bright and bubbly I am. I hope I’ll be remembered that way.
But sometimes it’s hard to keep smiling.
I guess you could say I’ve had a trying decade, filled with loss after loss, and I've been very open talking about the fact that it triggered the depression I live with every day. Like grief, depression never goes away. You simply learn to live with it and have good days and bad, the dark days teaching you the importance of appreciating every moment of the bright ones.
As I write this, I’m having a dark day. I lost another member of my four-legged family, one who had been with me for eighteen odd years, and it has triggered an avalanche of memories associated to everything and everyone, both four and two legged, I have lost along the way. It makes me want to rewind time and go back to one of those bright, halcyon days I didn’t fully appreciate when I was there. A summer day, when everything was colored in numerous shades of green and the grass was long and my horses and ponies were happily munching away with the sun on their backs and my cats were sleeping on warm patches of ground and I could hear the laughter of my nieces and nephews echoing through the forest as they played. I miss days like that so much now it feels like another loss and while mourning it…
Well, suffice to say, not much writing of the happily ever after variety gets done.
Writing through the dark days is not something I can do. I wish it was. And I’m more than a little envious of people who can. But there is more than one form of writing and I think we all need to remember that, particularly if it's something we do for a living. Writing down some of your memories and sharing them is important. As is this kind of writing, when you talk about how you feel. Self-expression should never be underestimated.
The familiar adage ‘writers write’, is true. I firmly believe that. But I don’t think it needs to be interpreted as adding to the word-count of your latest WIP. By thinking that way, you put pressure on yourself and can feel guilty on the days you don’t get words down on paper, which in turn can feed the voices in your head spawned by depression. You know the ones I’m talking about. They're the ones who tell you what you’re writing is crap, that even if you were a full-time writer once, you never will be again. They say you’ve lost it, never really had it, convince you that you fooled everyone from editors to reviewers to readers along the way and that even if they loved your work once, they never will do again. You suck. You're not worthy of success. You’re a fraud. You’ve been found out. Now it’s time to pay the price, get a minimum wage job and fill in time until you get old and wait to die. But I’m not going to listen to those voices. And neither should YOU.
We need to take the pressure off ourselves. We don’t have to be best-selling, award-winning authors who produce ten books a year and can preach to the choir about focusing on the business of writing and how it’s just a case of knuckling down, being professional and getting the job done. No two people are the same and what you want to achieve from your writing is up to you.
Decades before I sold my first book, I wrote stories because they were in me, had to be told and I loved doing it. There were little moments of magic, when the words flowed off my fingertips and I would laugh and cry with the characters I created. Writing was as natural to me, and as necessary, as breathing. Being published was a dream come true. Getting to make any money from it was merely the cherry on top.
Now don't get me wrong, I don’t think writing a story is an ethereal thing. I think it’s a skill, one we hone and, if we take pride in what we do, we should sharpen it like a pencil. I don’t think the creative part of writing should ever solely be considered a business, either. No matter how hard it can be, it should always (at some point or other) bring you joy. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be doing it. Because life is too short to spend huge chunks of time doing things you don’t enjoy. The minute you consider every second you spend writing as nothing but work, the joy is gone, and that can make words harder to find. Selling, marketing and promoting books is the business end of things. There’s no escaping that. But if you don’t have a product to sell…
So, my advice this month is something I learned the hard way. No matter how tough it is, you have to write your way through the darkness. Write about your day or your family or about a memory you don’t want to forget. Write about the times you felt happy or were in pain or when something made you laugh or cry. Write about why you felt that way to try and make sense of it. Write about the people you met and the places you went and what you saw. Write about those things so vividly they would paint a picture in the mind of a person who wasn't there. Write a few lines in a notepad you carry around with you or in a journal or a Blog. Post about it on your Social Media. JUST WRITE. Because on the dark, cold days, those words will keep the creative flame burning and even if it’s just a flickering flame, it can help you continue to put one foot in front of the other until you get to the other side and step into the light.
Then, when you have the warmth of the sun on your face again, everything is brighter, and you feel a spark of inspiration, you will have a record of everything you felt and experienced that you can use. The characters you create will be more layered and seem real because of it. What they feel will run deeper and resonate with readers who felt the same way at some point in their life. You can draw from it and allow yourself to bleed on the page in a way that could prove cathartic and enrich your story in numerous ways. You're making a positive out of a negative and that has to be a good thing!
Take it from personal experience, even when you’re not trying to write a book, those words can help. Looking back on something you wrote a year ago or ten years or twenty can show you how far you’ve come, how you made it through some of the darkest days of your life and, even though you doubted you would at the time, you survived. That’s so very important. Because no matter how mentally alert we may be right now, in this moment, right now, our memories can be deceptive. Take that perfect, halcyon summer day I wish I could revisit. I don’t remember what I was doing or experiencing that stopped me from appreciating it at the time. I don’t remember when it was or what I was thinking or feeling or any of the things that worried me back then. It’s literally a golden memory, without depth or shades of grey or any real meaning within the context of my personal journey.
Words can do many things. They can cause pain. They can break your heart. They can leave a deep scar on your psyche which effects you for the rest of your life. The absence of them in a moment you need them can be just as devastating. But they can also help you see things clearly, bring change, strengthen, unite, heal and with a little luck and a lot of hard work, maybe even assist you to climb out of a financial black hole. Words can change how you feel, which in turn can change your life. Reading the right words at the right time can make a difference. As can hearing them. If. You. Listen.
Words matter. They have power. And every word you write is important, even if it only matters to you.
So, write. Every day. Keep the creative/reflective/personal growth flame burning and light up the dark. Go write something!
Has writing helped you through some dark days? Do you keep a journal of your thoughts or scrapbooks of memories? Has there been a time in your life when something your read helped you through a difficult time or cleared your thoughts, allowing you to make a decision? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our Social Media.