Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writing in the Dark in Wisconsin

Well, I’m the last of us blogging on the “writing in the dark” theme, a theme that began way back in October. At that time, “writing in the dark” conjured up images of making mysteries scary, ramping up the tension, and how to decide how dark is too dark. We’ve had some great posts on these topics. But the spooky stories of Halloween have long since faded for me. To be honest, “writing in the dark” means something else entirely for me now. So, if you don’t mind a tangent, I’d like to delve into that here. (Hey, it’s my blog entry! I can twist it how I like, right? J)
The first thing “writing in the dark” reminds me of this time of year is completely a celestial issue. I live in Wisconsin. In the northern half of Wisconsin. There’s not one person who lives up here who isn’t acutely conscious of HOW EARLY IT GETS DARK this time of year. It’s 4:30pm right now as I’m writing and already all you can see of the cars on the street are their headlights. My dog has to wear a reflective vest for our walks, for Pete’s sake! However, while some days I find it depressing—I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark—in a more positive sense, the early darkness does make the day seem longer. I find myself looking at the clock, sure it’s time to get the kids ready for bed—and it’s 6:30. A lot of time this translates into more writing time for me. While I do try to get outside every day, there’s only so much you can do when it 7 degrees and icy (tomorrow’s forecast). So I write. Sometimes in the morning, but most often at night. And there’s something magical about writing in the dark. I light candles, curl up with my laptop, fleece blanket, and tea, and the darkness opens up possibilities for me. Things seem less real, less concrete—anyone who’s ever scared themselves in the dark knows that imagination works overtime without lights. I like to think that applies to my writing, as well.
“Writing in the dark” also appeals to the sarcastic me as well. Right now, I’m drafting a new manuscript. First drafts are my least favorite part of writing. So many choices! So many ways to go wrong! And I just know that every little bit I put down is going to have to be redone two, three, four hundred different ways and times. I struggle with that. Why can’t I just do it perfectly to start with? So, all this self-doubt makes me smile wryly when I hear the phrase “writing in the dark.” Oh, I’m writing in the dark all right. I have no idea what I’m doing, where this story is going, and if it’s even worth writing at this point. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I felt this way about MALCOLM, too, so maybe it’s part of my process. I have to keep reminding myself that if I want to be a writer, I’m going to have to actually WRITE SOMETHING.
So there I am. Writing in the dark in Wisconsin. Both literally and figuratively. Sometimes by candlelight, sometimes by sheer determination.
How about you?


  1. Great post, and totally agreed about first drafts. Painful!

  2. I grew up in Alaska, so I can relate to the "writing in the dark"! And you're right, there is something magical about it - especially when it is twenty below and the world seems so still and quiet. Thanks for sharing!


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