Writing In the Dark

One of the things I have struggled with as a writer is accepting my own style. I tend to write more about the dark side of human nature than I do about the lighter, happier moments. This has been particularly difficult as I spend time around Christians who have expressed distaste for such a style. I’ve been told that it’s not okay to use writing as an outlet for emotional stress. Someone told me I was just too dark and morose. People assumed something was wrong or bothering me. And of course, my personal favorites have been some variation of: “Christians don’t think about those things.”

I allowed these characterizations of my writing to hold me back from writing what pours forth so easily. I tried to write more happy things, light and fluffy pieces that would upset no one. The problem is, that’s just not how my writer’s mind works. Even before I worked in foster care, juvenile probation, and special education, I saw the darkness humanity had to offer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt bad for the kid who was mean because clearly his home life wasn’t great. I’ve reached out to the kid who couldn’t reach back. I have been keenly aware that the darkness is part of this life.

Doesn’t the darkness though allow us to embrace the light more fully? The apostle Paul in Romans 5:20-21 tells us that “where sin increase, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Quoted from the ESV) . The contrast we see between sin and grace, death and life is also the contrast between dark and light.

I don’t like the dark! In fact, I absolutely hate it. Both in terms of physical darkness and metaphorical darkness. I struggle as I write in the dark, not to find the words necessarily, but because I know the truth that evil exists in this world. I’ve never been blind to it, but in my professions, I have seen it so very clearly that I am forever marked by it. I can’t write light, happy, fluffy words when I know such darkness. Some days I absolutely loath myself for it.

But I am learning that writing in the dark is not a pathology to be fixed or cured. I’m not a psychopath who is going to turn into a serial killer at any moment. I have been given the ability to see and write the darkness so that I can bring it to light. Darkness loses its power when light is brought into it. The darkest night can be utterly light up by a cloudless sky with a fully moon. It loses its ability to hide from us what we most need to see. And the same is true of evil.

When evil is brought to light, it is no longer able to hold sway. It can’t cling to the shadows; the shadows are dispelled. That is what writing should be; it should offer light into darkness. Some writers do an amazing job of shining that light by writing light. I envy them at times. But my purpose is not to be that writer. I need to tell people stories that illustrate what I have been surrounded by so that they cannot turn a blind eye.

What is your purpose as a writer? Or painter? Or speaker? Or whatever you may be. Pursue it. Pursue it passionately. It’s a messy business, but it matters.