I have a dilemma. I want to see The Last Exorcism this weekend but am too afraid to go alone.
(Where is my brother when I need him?)
This is the kind of movie that separates my friends from… my weird friends. While I know all of you – most of you – would happily jaunt off to this movie with me, all in a day’s work, after all – there are other people who don’t see this kind of movie because they just don’t want that stuff in their heads. I get these people at booksignings a lot. “I want to read your books but I’m too scared.” Fair enough – I’d never force anyone to open that door.
And because I’m very much into recovery these days, I have a lot of people around me who don’t want that kind of thing in their heads. Hence not so many people right at hand who would go see The Last Exorcism with me.
I actually love going to movies alone – it feels decadent and I don’t have to pretend to make conversation when actually I’m there to take notes for my blog. But this one – well, I’m not exactly expecting a masterpiece (did it have to be a Southern preacher?), but I’ve got a pretty good imagination and possession can take me all kinds of places that the movie isn’t really going, if you see what I mean.
In fact I had one of my – actually quite infrequent – but life-changingly intense nightmares last week, on this very subject. So I am now dying to see this movie (and seeing it alone might be exactly what I need to do) but also a little worried about what it’s going to do to my psyche. Of course I WILL go see it because the whole point is to fling open those doors in my psyche so I will have more nightmares so I can write about them – I’ve already got a book in mind from that last dream.
But – just hypothetically, you understand – what are we really doing to ourselves when we constantly, deliberately open those doors?
You may be beginning to see that this post is actually just an extension of Stephen’s post from yesterday, in which most of us were reveling in our comfort level with violence above sex, or violent sex. Well, the dark is our job. I don’t have to ask any of you why you write about these things. I know why I write about these things. Because they’re THERE. Ever since I was a child, and I mean like a child of four, I have been stunned and outraged that people walk around pretending these things, like for example, evil, don’t exist. I write it with a supernatural edge, because it’s hard for me to deal with evil without getting across that feeling of something supernaturally powerful at work, but it’s really human evil that I’m talking about. I think if you don’t acknowledge it’s there, THAT’S when it can really get to work and do some major damage.
But there’s another aspect to my attraction to the dark, which is that I have an attraction to the dark.
A writer friend of mine just sent me a book with a perfect discussion of this, that asks among other things: “Do you want to watch Andy Griffith or The Last Picture Show? Do you want to hear Pat Boone or Little Richard?” (it gets progressively more graphic, but I’ll need to ask him to quote him and anyway, you get the drift.)
Would you rather watch Eat Pray Love or The Last Exorcism?
A year ago I wouldn’t have had the slightest problem answering that last, but today, I am experiencing some discomfort with my answer.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that writing is a no-boundaries kind of profession and mindspace. Most of us here have openly admitted that half the time we don’t even remember what we write and quite often are blown away by what we read when we pick up our mss for those rewrites.
Now, I know for a fact that I started writing what I do because I saw it in my life, and my friends’ lives, and my school life, and life life. No doubt which came first, there. But you know how they say, “Life imitates art”?
Well, does that thought ever bother anyone else?
Writing is a powerful thing. It manifests. No one can tell me otherwise.
I had that possession dream. So one option is that I could take it as the obvious sign it is that there is a toxicity in a dynamic I have with someone that is actually dangerous and frightening to me… cut off the relationship, and continue to heal myself.
Or I could fling that door open wide, run through it, and inhabit the dream for the next year as my next book.
Maybe it’s not an either/or question. I think any one of us could make the argument that inhabiting the book would be healing. Could be healing, I mean. But is that a true argument? If there is healing in writing a book, it seems to me a happy byproduct of the main purpose of writing a book, which is to bring a story to life. If I approached it as a healing exercise… would that make a better story or no story at all? If I used the healing part as the protagonist’s character arc, would that just be a clever rationalization for dwelling in the dark?
I honestly don’t know.
So I wondered today if you all ever wondered or worried about what dwelling in the dark does to you, on a long-term basis. Do you think you’d be a happier person if you wrote lighter books? Do you care? Do you think dwelling in the dark draws the dark?
And – if you feel like telling us – Why do YOU write what you do?
(PS: Realistically, if I went to see Eat Pray Love this weekend – I might enjoy it, but I’d still come home thinking about when I could get off to see The Last Exorcism. )