Addie Zierman is hosting a synchroblog today about our own stories of darkness to celebrate the release of her new book, Night Driving. So, here goes…
Writing has always been complicated.
It’s hard to pick a darkest time in that set of months; everything was so dark and tangled, full of guilt and longing, both of the kind that fill your stomach and sit heavy in your bones and feel like they’re about to tear you apart. Underlying everything was this tension between what I dreamt of and what I was terrified would happen.
My first forays into fiction writing were born out of my own desire to see the kinds of stories I loved, but full of girls and women. I hated that there was just that one token girl who, yes, tended to be kick-ass, but why couldn’t she be the main character? And so I crafted my own storylines, full of superheroes and dragons and unicorns and lots of kicking ass. Sometimes there was even a boy character!
I dreamt of being a writer. I wanted it the way you want your first dream: I wanted it with all of my being, imagined the books I would write and my books being made into movies and being famous. I wanted it so badly that I gripped my dream dream with a death-grip, not allowing anyone to even know of it, yet determined to make it happen. Crafting the plots of my stories took on all that frenzied passion that I wouldn’t allow myself an outlet for–for, being a perfectionist, I wouldn’t let myself write anything unless I had it all planned out, unless I was sure it was going to be perfect. Besides, writing was hard work, work that I poured my soul into and didn’t want anyone to know I was doing because then they would ask to see it and I’d have to say yes but I couldn’t face the idea of anyone reading it and so I only wrote where no one would see me–but plotting, plotting could be done anywhere. I could plan out the next scene, outline the ending, craft that conversation word-for-word, and as long as it was in all in my head, no one would be the wiser.
These imaging ins took up more and more of my time. I would slip away from people to get a few more minutes of time with my stories. I would lay awake at night thinking of them. I would plan scenes in exquisite detail, going over my favorites again and again. They consumed me, pushing aside everything else into various levels of ‘Less Important.’ God was pushed aside, honesty, sleep, school, relationships… They all paled in comparison with these fictional worlds that so vividly filled my head.
Those years weren’t the darkest time–just the background, the behavior that I slowly learned and that became ingrained in every part of my being, every part of how I thought and processed emotions and behaved and lived. No, the darkest time came later, after God wooed me back. God was lurking at the edges of my own story, waiting for me. I knew it, but the knowledge filled me with frantic terror, until one day the terror collapsed at the knowledge of my own weakness like a wet tent–or maybe God just reached through it and pulled me out. And my life was full of joy again, and I wasn’t alone anymore.
Except my life was still woven in with my stories, these living things writhing about inside me, demanding my attention, wanting my life, wanting perhaps to be written down but certainly to be thought about, to shove their way into every moment, whether that was studying or sitting and laughing with friends or watching the school orchestra or walking down the sidewalk on my way to class. I was still faced with this beast, the one that wanted to think about reality for maybe two minutes of any given day and. wanted to get lost in fictional places and characters for the rest of the time.
Trying to give that up was physically painful, sometimes. The desire to get lost somewhere else was so strong that it filled my gut, infused my limbs, until just sitting there thinking about not stories was all I could do, took all of my energy and prayer and effort, and all I really wanted to do was fall to the floor because that extra effort of staying sitting and normal-looking seemed like too much. Tasks like walking to class and taking a shower and going to bed became tasks that I looked to with dread, because those were the times when stories started prowling and growling and demanding to be let in and looked over and put back in the pride of place. Every slip up filled me with deep guilt and terror, a sick tension in my stomach, because this was the thing that led me away from God and I was overjoyed to be back. I didn’t want to be dragged away, bit by bit, so slowly that when the moment of choice came it was so easy to shove God away one last time that I then repeated over and over again. I didn’t want these fantasies to be so important to me, to be woven into the fabric of every day, to be always lurking at the edges of my vision and thoughts, calling out to me like sirens while sitting in lecture or pippetting for my experiment or watching a movie with my dorm mates. I hated that they twisted everything, were twisted into everything in my life, twisted and enmeshed and clawing their way into everything.