How writing brought me out of darkness

Some stories are easy to write. They keep us dreaming throughout the day. They fill us with endless hours of inspiration. They complete us.

My first novel was one of those stories. Though fictional, I drew inspiration for that story from the people around me, their interactions with others, and their ability to persevere in even the most challenging circumstances. I enjoyed every moment that I spent working on the first draft, and had no intention of ever sharing it with anyone else. All I wanted was to write an entire book from beginning to end. Completing it was all the satisfaction I needed before, I tucked the manuscript away without giving it a second thought.

Some stories are difficult to write. They keep us awake all night. They remind us of the darkness in our lives. Often, they tear us apart.

I have always found true stories difficult to write, preferring fictional worlds over reality. But one night, after I was beaten, robbed, and left lying at the side of the road, I couldn’t think of writing about anything else. I was no longer inspired by anything or anyone, and the artistic lifestyle that once brought me joy had disappeared. My mind was clouded by the memory of that night, of my attacker’s voice and the violation I felt at having no control over what happened to me. The terrifying event played over and over in my mind, and no matter how much I wanted to change the story, it always ended the same way, with me scared, alone and bleeding on the pavement.

Despite this cloudiness, I wanted to write about the attack. I thought that telling the story would help me to make sense of everything that happened and finally move on with my life. But I could only get four or five words down on paper before I had to stop. The night that changed my life forever was impossible to forget, and yet I could not force one bit of creative energy on to something that caused me such misery. And so I tried my best to forget about it.

The more I tried to push myself to ignore the trauma, the harder it became to focus on anything else. Then, while attempting to distract myself from the loneliness of an empty house one evening, I came across the manuscript I had written before the attack. The words on those forgotten pages meant more to me than I could have ever imagined.

I decided to devote some time to editing the story, and as I did, I began to recall how safe and confident I had been when I first wrote it. I found a distraction from my empty house and from the worst memory of my life. As I worked, I realized that after spending so much time trying to force focus on a negative story, I had completely closed myself off to the rest of the creative world that I cherished so much.

Although it was unintentional, through the editing process I managed to find my way back to writing the “easy” stories. By doing so, I distanced myself emotionally from the one story that caused me so much grief. I also learned to accept that all stories, in their own time, become easier to share. Now, I keep myself open to all aspects of writing, because even the truest and darkest tales can end in light.

Diana Douglas

Diana’s debut novel Somewhere Picking Dandelions was published in November 2016 by Latitude 46 Publishing.