Write the Dark, Live in the Light. 3 Tips for writing through tough times


“Write the dark, live in the light” is a mantra I have created for myself, a stern reminder of where to put the dark forces we all face. Since childhood, I’ve kept journals full of nothing but emotional rants, whines, complaints, pity parties, recordings of traumas and sleights and other toothy little demons from my darkest chambers. Various adults through the years, and many friends, accused me of “dwelling” on my feelings by writing them down. It didn’t stop me, of course, but I took those comments to heart and felt bad about my indulgent negativity, feeding layers of pre-existing shame.

It wasn’t until the first year that I stopped writing in my journal–when I got together with a controlling boyfriend in college who rolled his eyes and made derisive comments when he saw me penning my thoughts–that I understood the gift I’d been giving myself through writing. Those three years were some of the most painful of my life–not because of him; I quickly learned that writing the feelings down got them out, like days-old food between back teeth, from my psyche. After we broke up I never stopped writing them out.

Many writers don’t know what they feel until they’ve crystallized the thoughts on the page. There, your battered, tired, soul-scarred self looms up at you in some semblance of cohesion. You structure in words what feels untenable in the body and heart.

I write this post as much as a reminder to myself as to exhort you, my lovely readers, to write the darkness out of your skin, pry the pain out of your bones, slough it off the edges of your heart.

Try one of the following strategies when you’re overcome by these forces:

Essay It: Even if you are not an essay writer, I highly recommend you attempt the form. I suggest this as opposed to a journal entry because an essay must attempt to make some meaning out of the struggle, take the reader on a journey of epiphany or understanding. Journaling is fab, and I always always recommend a good bleed-and-purge-on-the-page. But I’ve discovered a powerful new release in attempting to craft my dark experiences in a way to which others might relate. And  the added bonus: while you might not show anyone your journal vomit, you can share essays with others.

Epistolary Relief: About 85% percent of the time that dark feelings are rising up in me, it’s got to do with my relationship to other people. And much of the time I can’t say what I want to say because my feelings are reactions, not well-reasoned thoughts. And let’s face it, sometimes the person or people in question may not be available to hear your side of things. In fact, I recently learned that someone I loved had passed away without me ever getting to say some things to her. I have no choice now but to write it to her as if she can hear me. It is fabulous relief to write a letter you will never send. It gets it out of you but hones your feelings to a point where you can manage them, and maybe even get past the reactions to say what you really need to.

Engage Fictional Techniques: Lastly, when reality does not go as you hope, when you can’t make someone change or express love or show up for you, you can place them, your situation, and your own feelings into the realm of fiction and do as you bloody well wish! Most of my fiction is an indirect and blended version of my emotional experiences. Most of my novels are not literally true, but the feelings are for damn sure.


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JordanWrite the Dark, Live in the Light. 3 Tips for writing through tough times