The Beautiful Darkness

There was a time when all I wanted out of writing was to get the madness in my mind out. There are too many thoughts in there. A lot of them are not pleasant. So, I write and it somehow drains the bad ones out a little bit. Now, I write for lots of reasons, including money. But that brain drain is still important.

Someone who cares a lot about me questioned the logic of writing “dark” stories the other day. I love this person and respect their opinion. The argument was that, since I dabble in depression anyway, writing dark, bleak, sad, and sometimes depressing stories must be a bad idea.

I explained my reasoning. Catharthis. Writing the kinds of stories I write makes me feel better, not worse. And on and on.

But then I thought about it some more. And it is more complicated than that. For one thing, I don’t consciously think, “I’m going to write a story about suicide.” I just write and what comes out comes out.

Furthermore, I have absolutely no interest (aside from financial) in writing happy stories. Happy stories don’t intrigue me. Super happy people don’t really resonate with me. I am interested in the flaws and hidden parts of people. Luckily, there is a lot hidden even in the “happy” folks. So, I write about it. But again, it isn’t a choice.

I suspect that there are a lot more people who are depressed or malfunctioning in some way than will readily admit it. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. I think everyone is screwed up in some way. It may be little, but it’s there, and it is the part that interests me.

I have written happy stories. I also write articles and things that don’t really have any particular ‘emotion’ attached to them. I write funny things sometimes. But when I put my fingers on the keyboard, unless I am specifically going for something light and happy, the words come out soaked in confusion and misery. Why?

Humans interest me. One of the things about being human that interests me the most is that the darker human emotions are considered troubling. Personally, denying them would be far more troubling for me.

I have been writing for a long time, and I have written a ton of stories. Maybe that is part of this whole thing. I don’t sit down and decide to write a story about any certain thing. I don’t plan out my novels. I start with one sentence and then the rest comes out…I have very little say in the matter when it comes right down to it.

I’m a pretty happy guy most of the time. As happy as most of us, I think. When I am not happy, I am really not happy, but that doesn’t happen as much as you would think from reading my fiction. I don’t dress all in black. I dress rather colorfully actually (pictures lie). I don’t drink myself into a stupor every night. I don’t want to die. I don’t spend all my time obsessing about the pain in the world.

Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. All I know is that my brain runs the show, and I don’t try to corral it – unless I am writing for money. When it wants to write a song, we write a song. When it starts a story, I am usually unaware of where it will end up. Maybe my brain knows. Could be.

A lot of my writing is self-therapy, I guess. And that is what concerned the aforementioned loved-one. People have trouble understanding that my mind spits out some pretty dark shit sometimes. People who don’t know me don’t care. They either like it or they don’t. But for the people who know me, it can be troubling. I know this. I don’t really know what I can do about it.

This is going to sound emo and pretentious, but I think the dark, frightened aspects of humanity are beautiful. The fragile egos and broken hearts. The regrets and shame and secrets. They are humanity and humanity is beautiful. Ugly and beautiful.

Maybe I’m crazy. If I am, I know that I am not alone. I want my wife to be happy. I want my daughter to be happy. I want myself to be happy. I do not want my writing to be happy because I want it to be true, and the truth is that there are many people suffering, dying, and living their lives in fear. The truly happy are a minority. I think.

It is not calculated. I know I have contradicted myself numerous times in this post. It’s all about contradictions. I do write “light” stories. When I write about a man who is slogging through life and waiting to die, I am bringing the darkness to light. And that makes me happy. It all depends on how you look at it. Like so many things.

Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

33 thoughts on “The Beautiful Darkness”

  1. I agree that we all have dark parts. In including those parts when I write I believe I am making my characters real. They suffer, they need, they want, they feel all the emotions most of us do. But I also believe we all, with very few exceptions, have ‘light’ parts as well. And so I let my characters (except minor villains) live with themselves, struggle and learn. In the end I want to see them find that spark of nobility that lies hidden to the outside and grow from it. (I see that in what you write as well, it’s not all darkness)

    For me, writing is therapeutic as well. In watching my characters struggle with their problems I find new ways of looking at my own. That said, I cannot dwell in the darkness too long, or it takes me with it. Perhaps that is what your loved one worries about. But it sounds like you have found a balance where that does not happen often.

  2. You gotta embrace your contradictions. I think it’s part of feigning maturity. 😉 Trying to make sense all the time would be exhausting, far more exhausting than succumbing to the paradoxes of existence. For me, it’s all about catharsis, too. As you’ll see in tomorrow’s post, I argue that nothing should be off limits to a writer. Everything’s on the table, and we choose what we pick up and examine at any one time. Sometimes it can even reflect the light, but most times it will be what we wrestle with. The ugly-beautiful stuff, as you put it.

    Nice post, brother.

  3. Right on, JD. I think in the same way when it comes to writing. I love human emotions. Most of my stories revolve around the reality of people that most do not know or care to know. I like realism in my work, and so far it shows. Personally, my own emotions bounce around in regards to which character i am writing or most identify with. Writing is my emotional outlet and I love it, even when I know some of it is going to be bad. :o)

  4. A good friend and fellow author told me recently that she was concerned because all of her writing turns out darker than she intends for it to be. She was worried that it meant she was turning into a brooding, negative type of person. My response included a lot of what you said in this post. Now Imma go show this to her. 🙂

  5. Great post. I don’t think it’s emo and pretentious. Humans are beautifully, marvelously, tragically, comically flawed. That’s where the writing juice comes from.

  6. One of the strangest things about human beings is our ability to co-exist with paradox all the time. Deeply religious people can do terrible things and no-hopers can do wonderful, uplifting things.

    I consider myself to be a very rational person who believes in things I can see, touch, prove and yet I also seem to have a ‘thing’ about fate. I didn’t realise how much of a thing it was until I began writing and it began creeping into the mindset of my characters.

    Contrast /is/ beautiful. It is also necessary, in real life and on the page.

  7. I don’t think it’s possible to put truth on the page without poking around in the dark. Even fairy tales tap into that darkness.

    So no, Dan, I don’t think you’re crazy. I suspect writing dark stuff helps keep you sane. 🙂

  8. That’s our job, isn’t it? To open that locked closet at the end of the long, dark hallway, shine a flashlight in and describe what we see. People who know me in real life are genuinely surprised by the dark stuff I sometimes write. I’m downright jolly most of the time. I laugh as easily as I breathe, but I’m also very concerned about that poor, dark monster in the hall closet. I want to let him out for his own sake and the sake of humanity. Most non-writers can’t fathom it just as some ‘happy’ folk can’t fathom the dark, secret thoughts that sometimes wander into their sunshine-drenched minds. They’ll fight like hell to keep that monster locked up and that’s just sad to me.

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever read a ‘happy’ story and liked it. On the flip side, it’s often hard for me to write beyond the rainbow and cherries. Getting to the ugly honesty is a journey into a demon infested pit, and a dangerous place for me. I’ll go there for the sake of the story, but the boundaries aren’t as defined and I’m always worried about crossing the line, going too far, and perhaps bringing something back that should have never been released from the pit.

    One of the reasons I admire your writing JD is that you are fearless. You go to places where angels fear to tread. There’s honesty in everything you write, including this post. Enjoyed it bro.

    1. Thanks brother. I struggled with that when I was younger so for a class I wrote the most horrible story I could think of. It was a good story, but just…horrible. Everything has seemed tame since then. 😉

      1. As per usual, I agree completely with KD. Fearlessness. Yep, that’s what I so love about your writing, Dan. That and about 103 other things. I won’t list them all here and you can guess at 87 and 102.

        The point is, you are the master of the dark corners; your writing cuts to through to the marrow every time. I’ve learned a lot from your writing and felt even more.

        Now carry on. 😉

  10. I found this post really interesting as I understand about writing dark stuff. I think it actually holds me back sometimes because I worry about being too depressing. KD wrote recently that writers lie, that it’s thier job to lie which I understand completely. Unfortunately I find it very hard to lie. I think maybe the ‘lying’ part of my brain may have been damaged when I had my brain storm. I struggle to write fiction but fact rolls easilily from my pen. You JD are so skilled at both. Your writing always strikes a chord with me. The trouble with only being able to write truth is, it leaves one exposed and vulnerable.Not to mention the people who really know you to either critise or feel uncomfortable about the truths your writing about. It can be a dilemma. Keep up the good work and good luck with your future endeavours. I’ve left Facebook because of a certain person writing lies about me on my family’s status but I will continue to follow your blog and those of my other friends. – Audrey. Word.

  11. JD
    Sorry I didn’t comment when I first read this post. It kind of hit home. On the outside I seem like a quiet happy person. In the inside I am a rolling ball of emotions. I try to talk some of it out with the hubby and the rest I write.

    It was a sad day for me when I found out that my writing spot wasn’t happy either. I have found some really creepy characters hiding in the corners usually blood-soaked or doing something else that is just icky.

    The funny stuff I write is actually a collaboration with my hubby. He won’t let me put his name on those stories. He says he just gives me ideas and I’m the real writer. But, I know in my heart that if he wasn’t in my life, my stories would me much more depressing.

    Also, I found that the more I write, the more it drains away the night terrors. I have been having them since I was three years old. Telling stories, holding talismans, even chanting have kept the dark away. I don’t know if it is in the blood or a flaw in my personality.

    Anyway… I wasn’t trying to write an epistle. Just a note that I truly understand. I think writers are more aware of the shadows.

    Cyn

  12. The darkest part is the hardest part. Well, for me anyway. I don’t like having a bad side.
    I’m a happy person, people don’t understand HOW I can be the way I am on a good day. Then I write and all that dark bit comes out, the parts that I don’t like about myself, the part that people don’t get to see. It’s the only stuff I know how to write, really.
    I think it started in the Navy when my boss pissed me off so badly that I wrote a flash fiction piece in my berth where everyone died. Horribly. Bloodily. With hearts ripped out. It progressed from there, I think, twisting and turning into my own juvenile theories of how the world worked and how the right person could make it all go straight down to hell.
    I mean, there’s good too, but ultimately both bad and good makes a person. It’s hard to write my book because of this. What I want (happy and good) isn’t necessarily what the book wants (murder and corruption). Reconciling the two is not easy.
    Like you, writing is my catharsis, it gets the bad out, helps me deal with the PTSD and the anger.
    It’s my way of understanding, I think. I don’t know. I do know that a person can’t be all good and all bad, that’s not how things work. You have to wade through the bad to get to the good, savour it for as long as you can, and prepare for the bad that’s coming back around.

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