By Cynthia Ray
Cory Doctorow, author and journalist, said that “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way”. But what if the headlights go out?
For me, writing is visceral, organic, profound, easy, difficult and sometimes impossible. I started a novella, as part of the Labyrinth of Souls novel series. For those that are unfamiliar with the series, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls is a fantasy game for tarot cards, written by Matthew Lowes and Illustrated by Josephe Vandel. In the game you defeat monsters, disarm traps, open doors, and explore mazes as you delve the depths of a dangerous dungeon. Along the way you collect treasure and magic items, gain skills, and gather companions. ShadowSpinners Press is publishing novels inspired by the game. Each Labyrinth of Souls novel features a journey into a unique vision of the underworld. You can find more here.
My story turned too dark, too sad, and too difficult, so I abandoned it and started a new one. Because I want my stories to have feeling, and meaning, I tap deep into my inner depths. But once again, I wrote myself into a dark corner with no way out. After spending a great deal of time in the labyrinth I created, in the dark, I simply quit writing. My protagonist is still trapped, always there in the back of my mind. I don’t want to leave my poor heroine in an impossible situation, and yet I have no desire to return to free her. I considered starting a new story, but in my bones, I knew that it too, would end up in the same place-that place.
You have heard the phrase, frozen in terror, but have you ever actually experienced terror so profound that your body was paralyzed, unable to move, teeth chattering, in a cold sweat? Perhaps in a dream, or you woke from a nightmare and could not move? I have, and it leaves a place in you that needs a light.
Last week, I spoke to a friend about the dilemma, and about the feeling of terror that seemed to emanate from wherever I was going in the story. She said that there is no escape, only acceptance. That night I dreamed.
My companion and I are being pursued by evil beings. We run but my companion is captured. Later, I am captured too, and taken to my friend. They have operated on her and altered her appearance with a beastly mask. They have also pierced her chest with holes to drag her around with chains.
Toko-Pa Turner, author of Belonging, Remembering Ourselves Home, says, “What I’ve learned again and again, is that we must love the dream we’re given. We must cradle it and trust that it contains the first step. The step from here to where we want to be is always to welcome it, to be curious about it, even (and especially) when it contains painful or threatening imagery.
When you drop your judgement against the not-beauty of your dream, it is allowed under the roof of your belonging. And so often it becomes beautiful there, unexpectedly, in the nurturing glow of your attention.”
Of course, everyone in a dream is just a part of ourselves, and I asked the evil pursuers what message they had for me. They just looked at me, and I became aware that the terror I had experienced was over, and the causes of it were gone, but I had taken on the role of terrorizer and continued to terrorize myself,
The chains of the past could drag me around, or I could choose to remove the mask that had been artificially placed on me, and the false view of myself, and make friends with the “evil” ones. They were not bad at all, but trying to assist me in confronting the false nature of the outer-imposed mask. I removed the chains, the ugly mask and exposed the gentle, lovely being that had been hidden under those suffocating layers of imposed concepts. The dream was a gift.
Transformation works both ways as we creatively change ourselves based on our experiences, our thoughts and our dreams. The transformation of the beautiful into the ugly and false is accomplished by terror and fear. The transformation of the ugly to the beautiful is accomplished through love and acceptance. My friend’s wisdom made sense.
Perhaps one cannot write what they have not yet processed internally, or perhaps writing is one way of processing. Whether or not the story is ever finished, it is a part of a personal journey through the labyrinth. I will let you know how it goes.