Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Dark Passenger

Within all of our minds, there lies a place we rarely come in contact with. A dormant entity lurks throughout our thoughts and emotions quietly unnoticed--however, there are those of us who perceive this Passenger and learn to accept it as part of ourselves. As in all things active, a hunger dwells within the Passenger. A hunger that drives its host to the near brink. Though we all have this darkness within, many of us will never stumble across it.
--Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter Morgan series

And then there's us.
The writers.

Many people wax philosophical on what compels them to write. I do.
And what I've come to realize is that the thing compelling me to write is much more akin to the Dark Passenger than to some desire to change the world, to shine a light, to inspire masses. I don't have any such fantasies.

I don't want to change the world with my writing. I don't want to try to make a living with my writing. That's what college and grad school are for: making a living.

I write because if I go too long without it, something inside me changes. At risk of sounding like a jackass for quoting my own writing, I'm going to share a passage from my WIP that sums up that thing that makes me write:

Or maybe that heavy feeling had more to do with the waking of the dead place. It moved now, swirling and heaving and pressing against him, mewling in his head. Hungry, desirous. 

Ever felt like any of those words describe your need to write?
It seems that many people describe their impulse to write as something light and beautiful, but not me. And I suspect many people are the same.
For me, that urge to write comes from a much darker place inside me, a place that could have gone many directions, and instead took this form.
Sure, a lot of what I write is light, airy, comedic. Nothing wrong with that. Satisfies the urge.
But then there's the darker stuff.

I'm fascinated by the darker stuff. It manages to ooze into a lot of my work, even things that started out light-hearted.
I've shocked a few people by sharing my darkest writing, my NaNoWriMo '08 piece, which is still unfinished, but still haunting me. They seem so surprised that I could/would write something like that.
We've all had dark times in our lives. What's wrong with going to that place for inspiration?
Or sick fascinations. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with serial killers and the mob.
It doesn't make me a killer or a sympathetic. I have no urge to go out and be violent on anyone; in fact, I'm quite a pacifist.

But that Dark Passenger is still inside me.

EDIT: RIP J.D. Salinger. You knew all about the Passenger. 


JournoMich said...

And you must keep it there to fuel future works. That dark passenger is a part of you, not something to exorcise. Congratulations on putting a name to your companion. Glad to have found your blog through Jen's (another new one to me).


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I must add that quote to my collection - I love it! I love the idea of a dark passenger and the wealth it can provide to our writing.

Awesome post! :-)

Unknown said...

I believe that every writer would understand your thoughts and appreciate them. I for one do not think I could try the serial killer method, however part of me does want to try it out and see. I live to write, going a day without writing something would make me feel empty!

I love this post... very very insightful!

Elana Johnson said...

Beautiful post. :)

Luna said...

So, that's what that is! Great post...:)

Summer Frey said...

Thanks, guys. It's comforting to know that there are other people as crazy and broody as I am, and that they aren't turned off by me admitting it.

Unknown said...

I gave you an award!!! Come check it out here!

Guinevere said...

Very thought provoking post! In the preface to the edition of A Clockwork Orange that I've been reading (which is one outrageously dark book), Burgess states that the book was a way for him to experience vicariously the kind of violence and recklessness he would never perform himself (paraphrasing, probably terribly). I thought that was interesting.

Bethany Wiggins said...

I totally get this post. But must add to it... I write in the hopes of making people feel that same magic I discovered with books.

Summer Frey said...

Thanks, Bethany--that's a great point, and that IS a reason I would want to publish. It's also the reason that I'm going into teaching: to open minds to the literary world.