Sometimes, I go back and reread some of my writing, and I come away thinking that my themes might be construed as sad or even depressing. While I am fully aware of it this, and many cases, it’s not actually intentional. But as most writers know, a piece of writing can start out in one tone and quickly veer off into another, with no help whatsoever from the writer other than what his or her unconsciousness contributes along the way.
Water flows downhill and always seeks those egresses that are below it. That doesn’t mean that some of kind of deterioration happens along the way. In actuality, the water may even become enriched by whatever it picks up along its downward fall across rapids or as it snakes its way through woods that crest a hillside. Story plots often behave in much the same way, quickly taking a plunge at the first sign of a low spot, and then rushing on toward the sea, which, in this case, is represented by a stack of pages or a computer file that constitutes the whole body of thought gathered finally in one place.
Here’s the thing: writers are constantly advised to “write what they know.” And in my case, there haven’t been all that many happy endings in my life to draw experience from. So how can I write about something that I’m not all that familiar with? Sadness, on the other hand, in the form of suffering, death, disruption, abandonment, rejection, tragedy, and any other manifestation of loss in between…yeah, THOSE I know a lot about, so it’s not surprising to me that my stories would assume an aura of loss, sadness, or misfortune. But in all cases, I try to inject the same measure of hopefulness and optimism into them that I try to imbue my own life with daily.
For a writer, the actual act of writing is an exercise in exploration. For as we type or write, we discover new things about the world, about other people, and about ourselves. Sometimes, too, we remember things that we might have thought long-buried and forgotten. But the act of writing requires an expenditure of energy, and energy, as we all know, is everywhere at once, filling the large and the smaller spaces equally, and in this case, insinuating itself into the tiniest crevices between our buried thoughts and impressions, often bringing them back into the light without warning.
How often have I sat here writing when, all of a sudden, a sentence or a phrase pops out at me in full print that I didn’t consciously compose but that seemed to materialize out of nowhere, an aggregation of small shards of memories I’d suppressed or that were crowded out by more immediate concerns. And if they happen to be sad, then that’s where the catalyst of that phrase lived for a very long time before it decided to become part once again of a greater whole.
While writers expound often upon events of the past, the actual act of writing is happening now, in real-time, giving new life to old impressions and bits of tales generated from experience and perception. I envy anyone who is able to tack a happy ending on to all his or her stories. But I suspect that, more often than not, loss and sadness, which seem to leave much deeper and more indelible tracks on the human soul, are much more familiar to a much larger audience.
My stories aren’t sensational. They are about ordinary people involved in extraordinary experiences that change their lives. And like trees falling in the woods, no one hears them unless someone writes them.