Occultation: Thriving on Darkness as a Writer

The chunk of time between November first and December twenty first is the worst part of the year for me. The sun gets a little more dim each day, the nights ever more oppressive, and my will to do anything other than watch movies lying on my couch overtakes everything. It’s dark by four p.m. Everything is tired and quiet and tinged with melancholy. The cold presses through my living room windows, and I’m alone with my thoughts more often than I’d like.

I couldn’t live in Alaska, not even for the Barrow vampires.

I understand, the older I get, why more people in North America take their lives around this time of year than any other. It’s not a consideration I like to linger in, because it lends the world a shade of grey that I don’t enjoy all too much. It’s there, though — it settles on my life like a fresh sheet of snow that never thaws.

My mom called me this morning — call it mother’s instinct — asking if everything was okay. You don’t want to worry the people in your life who you care for, so I scraped down a bit of the truth and pushed it to the side to smile into the phone.

The truth is that nothing is okay even though nothing if overtly wrong, and there are collectively more tears the closer I get to Midwinters. Will literally be better on December 22nd. It happens literally every year now. How do you explain that to anyone? Feel too much, think too much, the days are too dark, and the weight of that darkness drags me down. And this too shall pass, because its only one thing eclipsing another for a brief time.

So I’m waiting and finding distraction in books and movies and large cups of tea, and trying to keep the sadness out of everyday conversations, but even the jokes are wilted and the smiles short — they don’t reach the eyes, if you follow me.

Waiting — waiting for that first stir of snow through the gates of an abandoned estate on the Hudson River. The brush of those pale eddies over Graves’ boots. I’ve been waiting for the first scene to congeal into something real so I can give it life.

You might’ve heard this a few times from various other sources if you’ve been writing a while: waiting doesn’t get the words down. The difficulty is that I find myself unable to do anything other than wait right now — wait for this feeling to pass, wait for that moment to come. Just can’t do it. Just can’t — and it’s because of seasonal affective disorder, and it’s because that’s what I’ve been inculcating.

I am all too aware that the only reason I survived last winter was because I was writing all the time. Every day. Romping through imaginary darkness apparently keeps my mind off the real stuff.

The truth, and this is the hard pill to swallow, is that once you decide you’re unafraid of getting a little bit deeper into that murky pit that’s touched with the melancholy and the quiet, your fingers start brushing the real feelings that sit behind the fiction and lend it that much more credibility. Madness and darkness and despair. Punk rock and oblivion.

You’ve gotta do it whether you want to wait it out or not, otherwise you’re not doing your job as a writer, and someone (possibly your readers) will be waiting on you to start pulling out the gristle.

So take your damn medicine. Get in there up to the elbows.

And welcome to the suck.

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