Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing: The Dark Side

I have a dark side to my personality that I lock in a cage most of the time. Under lock and key, I’m a reasonable, even-tempered person. When the dark side is let loose, I can be an insufferable, cold-hearted brute intent on devaluing, lecturing, and criticizing anyone and anything that to me seems ridiculous, incompetent, stupid, or wrong. This aspect of my personality has been with me all my life, and will always be with me. It’s partly due to growing up with a larger-than-life drinking narcissist father and fully engaged codependent mother. What I’ve learned over time is how to control and manage this crazy, “adult child” part of who I am. On the racquetball court, the cage is unlocked and the dark side helps me score points and keep the intensity up. When I’m writing, the dark side can toss off arguments, fights, and chaotic exchanges with ease. The key is to keep this dark side from undermining and sabotaging one’s self-esteem. When I read Richard Yates’s biography A Tragic Honesty, I couldn’t help but see the consequence of a great writer who was completely beholden to his dark side. Those demons were on him from the beginning and there was nothing he could do about it. It’s amazing he was able to write at all, and with such insight, too. Alcoholism is such an sneaky, insidious, brutal disease.

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