Friday, January 24, 2020

The Writing Patient

January 17th 2020

The art of Writing means resigning yourself to being a vox clamantis in deserto. When the writer picks up her pen, she steps out of the throng and into the desert. Lines from the English Patient, when Almasey has left his beloved Catherine in a cave in the middle of the desert and gone running for days to reach help, flit through my head often. Katherine is injured and has nothing in that cold cave but a flashlight, a pen and the journal she keeps. After the batteries in the torch run out, she says, "I am writing in the darkness."

In a sense the writer is always writing in the darkness, with her creative life hanging in the balance. It is a conundrum that the writer wants his or her creation out in the sunlight,  but to get it there, there have to be hours in the dark place, a staring off into the middle distance, the desk in the closet (as mine once was) or up against the wall so that there are no distractions. It is the dark night of the soul that works itself out in words on the page. Dark doesn't have to mean depressing, but you can expect an eruption of something that was buried, a projection of the artist heart splat into the artistic product. We are creatures of the dark, little luminscent beasts scurrying around the bottom of the ocean of consciousness.

We take our flashlights and poke with them into the dark forest, trying to map out a trail, able only to see as much as the flashlight will illumine. We are writing in the darkness, and the risk always hangs over us that at the end of the day we may get through that forest or out of the dark cave, but the flashlight is dead, and no one even knows we were missing.