When I wrote about talent before, I was thinking about the personal qualities a writer needs to develop if they want to be published and make a career of writing.
Recently, I read a quotation by Erica Jong which reminded me of a quality writers need whether they want to be published or not. She says, ‘Everyone has talent; what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.’
You need courage to even embark upon the path of writing, let alone move towards publication, because when you write you are opening up to the hidden places of the self, and you can never be sure what you might find there.
People in workshops will often express surprise at where their writing has taken them – that’s part of the magical and sometimes mystical experience of any creative endeavour.
But occasionally that delighted surprise can give way to something much darker. Dismay, for example – ‘But I don’t want to write sad stories.’ Rejection – ‘That’s not really me!’ Even disgust – ‘I hate the character I’ve conjured into being.’
This is another reason the image Ted Hughes offers for writing as being like fishing is so apt; you might catch a tasty gorgeous trout, but you might equally snare a big angry pike or a grotty old shoe. There could even be alligators circling your bait, ready to pull you down.
Again, dreaming with awareness is wonderful preparation for creative writing, because in dreams we will inevitably encounter our own darkness, as well as our light. In intending to recall our dreams, we willingly surrender; we undertake to engage with that inner world, whatever we might find there.
In dreaming, as in writing, we may find more than we might wish to find, but that is the lesson of any inner work; we are much more than what we want to be.
If you are a writer, has your writing ever taken you to dark places that you didn’t know were there?