Dark Times, Bright Words


This weekend, I developed a cough and a fever. Therefore, after a doctor’s visit today, I’m under home quarantine. I thought I might have less to do, being both sick and confined.

Instead, I find I’m busier this Monday than last week! Writing, yes, brainstorming with other writers, talking with family and friends, contacting people where I work, planning out two to three weeks worth of food, laundry, etc. for the household, all while trying not to cough up a lung. You’d think I’d have time to put “get blog post done” on that list, but…

So, I thought this week I’d talk about a book I’m reading and how it’s affecting me.

I’m not going to name the book. This is my policy: I don’t like to name books or authors when I critique. My own tastes are so eclectic, and I feel that my judgement is so subjective, it won’t be all that helpful in specifics, but it’s interesting to me to look at a book, see how it affects me, and why it matters.

The book this time is a really good book by an amazingly talented author. It’s been a long time since I read prose that’s this poetic and pointed. Every image is as vivid as if it were raked across my corneas. And that’s a problem because the content is killing me.

This may be one series that I can’t finish due to the absolutely brilliant way the author tells the story. We talk sometimes in the community about censorship and about trigger warnings. In general, I’m not a fan of either. I believe that writers should write the stories they have to tell, write them as well as they can, and write them to the best of their ability, using Betas, sensitivity readers, and as much reading in their genre by own voices authors as possible. I think that’s wise; I think that’s good.

However, this is the second time I’ve been absolutely broadsided by content, and when that happens, it causes me to rethink how I phrase and write certain things in my story. The content this time was the physical abuse of a child in a truly horrifying way to “teach her” a lesson. The first time was the graphic description of animal abuse in a poem that caused me to be terrified to pick up another modern poetry anthology. In so many ways, the more pointed and beautiful the craft, the more painful it is to read things that hurt: spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

I will try to finish this book. The prose is worth studying. I certainly don’t have any problems with the author writing the story they had to tell as beautifully and brightly as they could. But, for me, it serves as a warning to use my gift for words with care. What I write has the power to hurt, to heal, to wound, to repair. I need to be cautious with my prose. I need to make sure I elevate the beautiful as much as the disgusting, to paint the wonderful as well as the wretched.

This is a dark time we live in. It’s going to get darker before it gets lighter. And if I can use bright words to dispel the darkness, I want to do that.


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