Going Dark–or at least Going Dim–to find your way

writing

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

I love going to the movies. I love sharing an overpriced pop, gorging on Good and Plenty smuggled inside my “movie purse” because it makes up for the pricey Pepsi, and watching people wander into the theater and spend that awkward 15 seconds making their personal seating preference known to an audience of strangers who are hoping they don’t sit next to them because their kid is wearing light up shoes.

I love when the lights go down, and the sacred hush descends (and god help the person still texting). And I love the coming attractions…that’s what the dimness brings, too.

The dimness demands quiet and attention.

The dimness teases to get our adrenaline pumping, to raise our expectations, and to entice us to look forward.

I’ve kinda gone dark like that over the past couple of months.

forest-trail

I recall it being fellow blogger Esther Emery who used the “going dark” phrase recently in regard to posting, and I thought, Aha, that’s what I’ve been doing…at least internally.

And it has been more akin to “going dim.”

Not that anyone would have noticed, especially from my social interactions, both in person and online.

By going dark, I mean, I’ve been operating in a dimmer light.

This wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t some social experiment with a plan to blog about “my 60 days without…”

Part of me suddenly went on strike. Her union set up a huge, inflatable rat and declared, Don’t cross this line.

I stopped blogging much, because I couldn’t, for the first time in years, put into words what I felt…about writing (or not writing), about personal trials, about hate, and about faith.

I didn’t fight it for long when it happened around March. Instead, I directed my energy and creativity where it wanted to go.

Straight into the dark.

Into the black dirt of my garden…into more solemn readings and reading into the night…into trials that got in my face and said, If you love, prove it…into quiet and still mornings with black coffee on the patio, watching baby robins hatch and struggle and reach and survive…into the heaviness of a world wounded by the evil in human hearts and the equally evil and inexplicably loving responses to it…into more honest and confessional prayers offered up with dirty hands to a holy, angry, and tender Father who I don’t understand but trust because, love.

I spent more time walking through the woods and more minutes with people I love forever.

I started teaching myself how to forage (which my daughters have told their stepfather is a good reason to stick with me in the event of some cataclysmic economic collapse).

I wrote letters to mourning people and imprisoned people.

And I finished writing a book that I have carried in my notebook–word processor–hard copy–hard drive–trembling hand since college.

writing

Author Virginia Woolf once wrote–or tried at least to put into words–her experience with loneliness and creativity and how it brought her to a “consciousness” of what she called “reality.”

These October days are to me a little strained and surrounded with silence. What I mean by this last word I don’t quite know, since I have never stopped “seeing” people… No, it’s not physical silence; it’s some inner loneliness.

I feel like that. Not lonely in the sadder sense of the word, just more aware in the dark and dimness and trying to find the words to explain it.

To acknowledge how valuable the “reality” has been once I decided to embrace it.

To refuse to label my lonely silence “writer’s block” and instead, like Thomas Merton, see it as the place where “the deepest activities begin.”

Feeling and seeing more in the dimness is counterintuitive, isn’t it? After all, light is the great revealer. Low light usually makes us squint, fumble.

Yet dimming the lights also signals a quieting down, an anticipated intimacy, an alert restfulness…and that something interesting is about to happen.

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Writer | creative non-fiction & YA fiction Developmental Editor | Moody Publishers

8 thoughts on “Going Dark–or at least Going Dim–to find your way

  1. You bring with your writing something I have been dealing with for sometime now. One begins to feel alone in the darkness when you open a E-mail and someone explains the feeling so clearly. I so enjoy reading your posts.

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    1. This brings up a whole other aspect of darkness and loneliness. While loneliness can be a good time for creatives, in general, it isn’t considered a positive. That kind of loneliness can be a debilitating place and one that is probably necessary on some level for healing but not for long periods. We definitely need the company, compassion and help of others then.

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  2. “Yet dimming the lights also signals a quieting down, an anticipated intimacy, an alert restfulness…” I think this is what I need to do. I have so many ideas of things to do, but I don’t stop long enough to really think about what my next step is. Maybe I need a time of stepping away or at least some periods of quiet time each day to think more deeply and pray and work on some of my writing ideas. Thanks for sharing, Amanda! I always love to read your words! Blessings to you! xo

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    1. I appreciate how good you are to comment and encourage other writers, Gayl. It’s really a gift you have. I haven’t set aside time specifically, I’m mostly allowing in more quiet, sitting outside every minute I can (even if I’m working), and engaging in things that call to me aside from writing, especially. I’m letting things sit, too, before I respond. And if I do respond to events like the shooting in Orlando, it’s mainly through intimate discussions with my children and family, the people who matter most and I can teach best. I think being out of the office environment for the first time in years is also prompting me to soak in every breeze and bird chirp and moment to simply observe that I can!

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  3. That Thomas Merton reframe is the best I’ve heard. I had my experience earlier this year with going underground. Brutiful(as Momastery says,) necessary inner work. I love how you end on a note of anticipation. Good things to come!

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    1. Hopefully I didn’t take him out of context, but I don’t believe so. It’s a beautiful full quote. I remembered your going underground when I was writing this. For me it’s an odd sensation, and I was concerned at first it might be apathy. Maybe more so weariness, at least in part. So when we are very weary, we need to set ourselves apart. This has also been a time to linger in small moments, appreciate life more fully.

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      1. I think apathy is always a real possibility. I mean, it can come through compassion fatigue or from a deep sense of self-preservation, or going too long without necessary boundaries. At the same time, listening to the need to withdraw is a kind of boundary- the kind that prevents careening over a precipice. (Which I kind of did about a year ago.) Through any of it all, divine love reaches, so I think let’s not ever be hard on ourselves for not figuring out what it’s all for.

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