Beware of Darkness

colt3.FullSizeRender-3A year ago, after a lifetime of being an advocate for gun control, a switch flipped inside my head. I decided I needed to learn how to shoot and own a gun. I discussed it with my husband who agreed to take lessons with me and to purchase a pair of handguns. As an older American, I felt vulnerable. A gun (or two) could protect us. This thinking was such a huge departure for me. I ruminated over it long and hard, talked it over with plenty of friends and family. I was surprised to learn how many already had guns and knew how to shoot them.

At the same time, my writing also took a darker tone. As often is the case, a character I loved acted out things I had been thinking, like taking shooting lessons and buying guns for self-protection. She also felt vulnerable. The title of my upcoming novel reflects this blacker mood in my world view. I finished that book, which I am proud of despite its darker themes. That’s the way it works with writers, or with me anyway. Whatever is on my mind finds its way into my current work. The books, in my view, are always stronger for it.

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Still in the pro-gun frame of mind, I began another novel with my same beloved character. I wanted her to find a way out of her darkness. I thought it could be a psychological thriller with a victorious turnaround for my damaged character who had suffered so much. There were two shootings in the first chapter. Of course my character is on the side of the righteous and wants to find the shooter and see justice done. It was my job to help her do that.

Meanwhile, in real life, I never did push for those shooting lessons. I started to think maybe we didn’t need guns in the house after all. And I noticed I was reluctant to continue with the draft of this more violent novel. I thought I was being silly, and, ignoring my inner voice, forced myself to continue writing, telling myself It’s fiction! It’s not real! It’s a challenge. The pages accumulated and I had a solid start on a new and different novel in a fresh voice. My critique group thought it was great.

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Then yesterday: the mass shooting in Oregon. After much reflection and the familiar unwillingness to sit down with my manuscript, I finally admitted to myself that I may not be up to this particular writing challenge. I just don’t have the stomach for it. Not now. Maybe not ever. Sure it’s just a book, but after yesterday it hit home: I don’t need or want to add any more to the world’s darkness, or my own, not even a little bit.

17 Comments on “Beware of Darkness

  1. Thank you Cynthia I’m trailing an unmarked path in my life right now and meeting a lot of sadness and loneliness in folks, we need to connect more, not hurt more. I appreciate your candour as always. Much respect!

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    • Boy, Jackie, I hear you on that “unmarked path” ~ sometimes I feel like any direction, even the wrong one, is better than no direction. It’s hard just floating, but sometimes necessary. As are sadness and loneliness as without them we could not know joy.

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  2. Very honest and interesting post, Cynthia. I’m so glad you came to that decision. It’s strange to us across here that ordinary people would think of owning guns and learning to shoot but I know it’s a different culture. We all need a little escapism in our lives and fiction is one of the best ways to experience it.

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  3. We have guns in the house. They’re not usable, though. They’re in pieces. Except for a handgun that belonged to my late uncle. We want to turn that in if there’s one of those amnesty things. We live out in the country where just about everyone owns a gun or guns, but we really don’t want to have any. It was interesting to read about your back-and-forth on the gun thing.

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    • We have the gun pictured in my hand in this post, Kris. It is not loaded and in fact we have no bullets for it. It’s locked up in a safety box. It was owned by Al’s grandfather, who was a P.I. It’s said he never shot it on the job but I assume he did target practice with it. I think if I was in the country, I might feel different about owning and learning to use a gun, but then again, it feels so safe and peaceful where you are at–I was paranoid for awhile about the state of this country with everyone armed to the teeth, the growing economic gap, and feeling vulnerable as hell because I was a teacher. It all created a kind of fear in me but I worked it out in fiction and have calmed down. I still know that we live in a dangerous society, but I feel safer than I did a year ago. Maybe because I retired.

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  4. Bobby got his CPL and I thought about it, but isn’t on my priority list. We are living in the last days and the bible tells us it is only going to get worse. I just pray that the Lord comes soon

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    • It’s a tough decision Becky. I always freak out a little bit when a mass shooting happens, and rightly so IMO. I have calmed down now and plan to continue writing the book. It does feel like “end days” sometimes, but the USA is not quite the wild west, and the Vikings were worse than middle eastern terrorists–when you read about the world it seems it’s always been “end times” ~ I’m thinking about the black plague and the dark ages. How much less people knew about disease even a century ago. I don’t mean to dismiss your beliefs, but just to give you hope that the future can be better. I have to believe that.

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