Darkness and Light in Writing

During my sunny morning stroll to the dining hall this morning, issuing Joey Bada$$’s upbeat and stylish album 1999 from my phone, I asked myself the question, “Why do I write so much about despair and darkness and so little about joy and light?”  The immediate answer which popped into my head was that writing about despair was easy. I’m all too familiar with dark emotions and I know that my writing reflects that part of me. Still, shouldn’t I as a writer try to capture emotional experience fully in my work? Few characters, especially if they’re meant to be realistic, can pull off having only depressing and angry emotions.  A character needs depth. Even one in a miserable situation should vary emotionally.

These thoughts of darkness were all very good, but the question remained, “Why is it so hard to put joy into my writing?”  After some consideration I’ve come to a few possible answers. Perhaps there is a certain vulnerability that comes with expressing oneself joyfully. The academic or writer in a stereotypical sense is not that of a happy and joyous man, but of a serious and brooding philosopher. I, by this view, may have started to associate joy with a naivety. My dabbling in the dark may be a ploy to please the masses and earn acceptance for my craft.

Or perhaps the reason is that I do not question joy as I question despair. When I am sad or angry, I ask “Why am I sad? Why am I angry?” I comb through emotion and thought to reach at some hidden truth. When I am happy or blissful however, I am more likely simply to accept that emotion, to ride it with action and forgo thought and scrutiny. Thus my understanding of joy may be less complete than my understanding of despair.

Maybe my despair in writing is simply a reflection of the human condition. Perhaps humanity’s main focus in life is to overcome struggle, and so struggle takes the centerpiece in my human expression. Joy could simply be the minority in reality. Perhaps the dark writing is merely more accurate in its realism.

Although the sadness in my writing could simply reflect my artistic preference. Maybe I am personally moved by darkness in a way I am not by joy. Is it even important for my writing to reflect something realistic? If it is beautiful with melancholy alone, what need do I have for joy in my writing? But that is a poor excuse. Why should I forfeit express one beauty alone. Writing many different beauties (and wretchednesses) creates story with depth.

These thoughts now buzz around in head as I write this at 1 AM, perched at my dorm room desk, and continuing in this line of questioning greatly appeals to me. Still, I need sleep, and sleep will surely bring me more questions. I will come back to this another time and more fully develop my thoughts into an essay. For now, enjoy some mind food my lovely readers. Good night!

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