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Darkness and LIght

Posted by Priscilla on September 21, 2013

embers.pngMy friend and her husband live every day with the pain and anxiety of caring for a child with cystic fibrosis.  Once they worked through their anger and resentment, abandonment and fear at the curve ball thrown to them, they began to learn to live in the day. They even began to accept the goodness of the design that gave their son a terminal disease.

Recently, while on a rare and carefully planned-for camping trip with their two preschoolers, the parents found themselves alone sitting around a dying fire late at night. The night was dark, velvety and thick around them as the fire gave up the last of its light. Soon, only bright pinpricks of orange were visible in the darkness.

Gina took out her camera and took a flash picture.

Did she capture the beauty of the dying embers? Not at all. The flash showed the stone ring, the grey ash, the stick her husband had used to stir the coals, but nothing else. No beauty. No light. No life.

“Sometimes,” her husband said to comfort her,” you need the darkness to see the light.”

 

He is a wise man.

Suffering – having what you don’t want, or not having what you do want – can be redemptive. When we stand still in darkness, we can better see the beauty in the pain. We can see the goodness and value in the design. We can see the gentleness behind what looks like crass casualty.

As the diamond shines more brightly on the blackness of the jeweler’s velvet, so our character, refined by fire, will glow more vibrantly.

Now, what does this mean for the writer?

  1. Pay attention to the things that come into your life that you do not like. When you are willing to take the long inner look, to sit with pain and learn contentment, you will discover depths in you that you didn’t know you had. Truth will burn through your words.
  2. Be willing to write out of your heart rather than your head. Robert Olen Butler would say write out of your dreams. There are two kinds of dreams, wrote Northrup Frye, many years ago: our wish-fulfillment dreams and our anxiety dreams. If we write only from wish-fulfillment, our writing remains shallow. If we write only from anxiety, our writing depresses. To have life in our words, honor both dreams, and listen to both sides.
  3. Learn to provide a foil for the character that you want your readers to most attach to.  A foil is another character that shows up the depths of your main character by differing from him in some significant way.  This difference acts much like the jeweler’s velvet. Does your main character struggle with honor and integrity? His foil might take the easy road every time. Does your character insist on success? Perhaps her foil finds success without trying and cares nothing about it.
  4. Avoid, at all costs, the cliché. The cliché started as one person’s honest response to the pain of life, but has become the easy answer we throw out when we don’t really “want to go there.” Cliché’s are a way of hiding from our hearts and from other people.

There are times in life, when cliché’s leave us empty, when words fail, when dreams die. It is at those times of darkness that we are most able to see the light if we look for it.

 

Comments:

Posted by Jerr on
Priscilla, an excellent blog with excellent advice. I like the diamond on black velvet analogy. Thank you.
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