Writer shares her path through a writing slump by finding her "dark place"
I think of the dark rather as the deep: perhaps a seldom-visited place, but we know what dwells there. What we have to give the story, when we return with it from that place, is humanity--and that demands a weaving of every hue of experience and emotion. The authors whose stories have lived on for decades and centuries, all seemed to know this.
This is a great reminder that we need to get to the emotional truth in our writing and coax it out of the darkness. This is also a great reminder that the teacher is forever the student, too. Thanks, Leslie!
What a helpful and lovely essay, one I am reading just before putting my hand on the greasy old brass doorknob that I will turn before entering my own Dark Place.
Wow. Leslie! This was very helpful, and poignant. Having played sports I always took the teacher-coach dynamic as inherent until you called it out. I like how this shifted from telling with the pronouncements up front and showing with the somewhat illicit writing challenge.
In my own writing I’ve found that the more personal the more rewarding if not better. I’m going to channel my inner Orpheus.
Thanks for sharing!
Strikes me as a helpful, at times eloquent, personal statement about letting go of her defenses and going where she needed to, as writer, teacher, person. Problem some readers are having with the piece is, I think, mainly due to the teacherly, pronouncing (didactic) tone she doesn't quite escape. Calling yourself a fraud often comes off as a declaration of your own authenticity, which, when insisted upon, creates resistance. Still, several worthy takeaways and a lot of lovely writing.
thanks so much for such a good 'lesson'.. i am getting to a dfark place, and need to stay there.. it is a family narrative that I am 'writing;'. i keep writing, but now it is time to focus and do something with everything that i have written... that is the scary part.. thank you for sharing this..
Truly gorgeous, and one of my favorite writing essays ever. I will read this again and again. This is the pep talk I needed. Thanks, Leslie.
Reminds me of my first "dark place short story" that was written from a very DARK place (literally) when I was in a low-rent hospital, suffering from a misdiagnosed ailment, a mysterious condition which caused such intense fever spikes that each day I drifted in and out of unconsciousness.
My parents had abandoned me, pre-signing all the medical releases so they would not have to visit.
Sympathetic nurses & volunteers, the Candy Stripers, took pity, becoming my only visitors.
And what a sublime education I received in that hospital; the nurses schooled me about a subject new to naive me - - NYC drug dealing, withdrawal, overdoses, addiction, shooting up, the differences between opium, morphine, heroin (called "horse" then), and cocaine.
I survived my illness.
I wrote a very different story for the school magazine than anyone else was writing at the time - - from this DARK place that my nurses granted me access to, at a time when I was not sure I'd live thru my illness, when it was not clear if the knock-out fever spikes would give me brain damage.
My story "No Way Out" was accepted and published.
I won a gold medal for literary achievement.
I was 15 years old.
My pen and Muse have stayed "on the dark path."
This was wonderful. Engrossing. And a much needed reminder for someone struggling to put words on paper. My dark places don't live far below the surface, and though they're easy to get to, I still hesitate.
Very good essay! I agree with Leslie Pietrzyk that we often need to go to a painful place to write a powerful piece of creative writing. I also agree with Donna Shanley that this place is deep but not always dark. It takes a lot of effort to dig deeply, to explore psychological wounds, to dredge up embarrassing experiences. The best writers are not afraid to journey to this painful realm and to expose their own vulnerability. Barbara Krasner is also right that our students can often teach us a lot. We teachers/professors need to open ourselves up to this kind of learning, as Leslie Pietrzyk did.
Best wishes! Janet Ruth Heller
website is https://www.janetruthheller.com
A wonderful piece. Congratulations on your courage to tell the shameful truth (feeling like a fraud), to reveal so well the teaching truth that it's so often a two-way street, and carry on with humor and authenticity.
I agree with Donna. For me it's the depths not the darkness. My writing changed remarkably after I read Chapter 42 of The Portrait of a Lady where Isabel Archer comes to some stunning realizations about the life she has vs. the life she dreamed of. My depths were writing about what it was to be the son of Holocaust survivors and I ended up making my name first as an American pioneer with the subject. For three years my college CW professor had been encouraging me to "write something real" and she beamed when I turned in a new story. This was it.
That just means the best poetry can only come from abuse...which is not a great sentiment to carry