Winter is a difficult time because of its darkness. Writing, too, is difficult for the same reason. That means writing in winter may feel like a double whammy. But it doesn’t have to.
If you’re a sun worshipper, a creature of the light, you need to understand, darkness is important to the creative process because (1) it is out of darkness that creation emerges and (2) it is in darkness that we rest and rejuvenate.
Creation myths around the globe acknowledge the important role of darkness in the generative process.
We can look to the Egyptian, Norse and Judeo-Christian creation stories to get a better understanding of the process. In each of these myth before anything existed all there was darkness, and in that darkness was chaos.
The ancient Egyptian myth goes like this: before there was form, there was only formlessness. Nothing existed except the chaos of endless, black waters. Then a small, solid pyramid-shaped bit of earth emerged out of the abyss. As this happened, from the chaos came the self-generated sun god Atum, whose name means both “Everything” and “Nothing” or as the Egyptologist Jan Assmann calls it “ the All in its condition of not-yet.” Atum was both male and female and released the male seed of life into his/her female hand and from this the world would be created.
Sorry. The Egyptian version is a little gross.
In the Norse myth, before there was earth, or sky, or any green thing, there was only the gaping abyss, a chaos of silence and darkness, which lay between the homeland of fire and the homeland of ice. The frost and flames from the two lands crept toward each other until they met in abyss. The fire melted the ice and drops formed themselves into Ymir, the first of the godlike giants, who was both male and female and who reproduced assexually and from his body the world was eventually formed.
A little less graphic, those Norse folks. But still a little weird. That’s creation, though: messy, weird, and a little gross.
In both myths, though, all begins with darkness and chaos! Then, the creator (ultimately that’s us…you’re getting this analogy, right?) emerges from this and draws on both feminine and masculine traits to create.
That’s the creative process in a nutshell.
As creators, we need the darkness, but we resist, distrust, and even fear it. In Western culture, heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian mythology whose god is associated with sun and light, we live by the metaphor that light equals good and dark equals evil. But our relationship with darkness also has more primitive and practical origins. Because we can’t physically see in the dark, we are vulnerable. It’s difficult to protect ourselves from unseen dangers – whether it’s falling into a hole or over a cliff or meeting a predator. We are safer in our shelters; these days we illuminate our homes until it is time to sleep.
But even in the safety of our homes, many fear the dark. (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who makes sure the closet door is shut so the monsters don’t get out. I’ve seen the movie, Monsters! I know it’s not just me!) This is because in the darkness the imagination awakens. We aren’t limited to the actuality of the physical, manifest world. We imagine monsters and other predators because of our primitive instincts, but couldn’t we also imagine delightful things? Yes. Absolutely.
We need the darkness!
This boundlessness – the fact that we can’t see form – is the quality of darkness that helps us as writers. The blank page is the darkness. Anything is possible. We must begin to give shape to the chaos of infinite possibility. We must summon the courage to go into the darkness and find the “All in its condition of not-yet.”
Because the creation process can tap in to our deepest fears, we should honor ourselves for our willingness to go in. We show courage every time we begin the process.
I find that it helps to light a candle before I get started. When I’m feeling really blocked or really apprehensive, this is what I do. And I ask for help from the universe’s unseen forces, which have become our gods and goddesses. That way the darkness, both real and metaphoric, is not quite so dark and I don’t feel so vulnerable and alone.
Winter and darkness belong to the realm of Earth element, which I further examine in Practical Magic for Writers workshop. Just from this quick study of winter’s dark energy, you can see how understanding how the differing aspects of each element will help you navigate the writing process. And not be afraid of the monsters.
Some practical magic:
Next time you feel apprehensive or otherwise resistant to the darkness, take 5 minutes and use it to your advantage. First, light a candle. Then, try this darkness meditation — go in, and let darkness enter and empower you.
Sit down and close your eyes (yes, more darkness!) and bring your attention to the feeling that’s troubling you. Focus on it. Notice how the resistance or fear softens as you bring awareness — the light of consciousness! — to it. Know that the feeling, itself, is a darkness. It’s not evil; it’s just dark potential — the place where seeds sprout and where we rest and rejuvenate. You always have the power of your inner light, your awareness, to rely on. Remind yourself that you can not only survive but appreciate and benefit from the darkness.
As you inhale, let the darkness expand and the power of its potential expand within you. As you exhale, feel the resistance to the darkness and any fear soften and float away. Inhale again and feel the potential of the darkness fill you. You may ask the darkness what it has to teach you. Accept the gifts of darkness. Continue to breathe fully and deeply until you are relaxed and ready to write.
For more writing magic and magical freebies, subscribe to Wholly Creative and I’ll deliver it straight to your inbox.