I was listening to Eminem the other day (yeah, you heard me right) and started thinking about public persona. Eminem, like many artists, especially poets and lyricists, get a bad rep for being negative, dramatic, and sometimes violent. Is that who Marshall Mathers is? Or is that just what he writes about? If it’s not who he is, does he have the right to make music about it? I mean, it kinda sounds fake. >___>
Thing is, if you judged me on my art alone, particularly my poetry, you’d be convinced I’m sex-starved and suicidal.
You’ll be pleased to learn I’m neither of those things. *Cheshire cat grin* So what’s the deal?
If you’re an artist, you likely know what the deal is, even if you’ve never put it into words. But then, of course you have. And if not, you’ve put it into imagery. You get it. Dark creative work does not equal a dark person. Dark thoughts? Most definitely.
So take a seat. Let’s chat for a minute.
There are two Me’s. Well, really there are about eight Me’s, but let’s not complicate things. The first Me is a social, smiling, strong woman who can lead a mass of people out of crisis without breaking a sweat. The second Me is a somber, thoughtful, delicate hermit, broken at the smallest rejection.
There’s a place in the world for both sides of me. But there are reasons I aim for the first in most of my business and personal dealings. She is a more pleasant person to be around. She gets things done. She’s easier to love. And she enjoys life.
However, suppressing the second would only be harmful to myself and others in my life because, without a safe place to exist, she will rear her ugly head at the most inopportune time.
Hence, an outlet.
There are plenty of other outlets—sports, heavy machinery, exercise, eating, etc. My outlet of choice just happens to be creative. Well, honestly, sometimes it’s eating. But I’m working on that.
If you get what I’m talking about and are in search of a way to better manage the two halves of your soul, join me on…
The Dark Side
We really do have cookies. Why do you think you feel so guilty when you eat them? 😛
Punching holes in walls, ripping your friend’s head off over something stupid, and self-destructive behavior (eating disorders, chemical addictions, self-sabotage) are all good signs you’re not managing your dark side well.
Let’s see if we can channel all that negative energy into a safe place. For the sake of this article, I’ll focus on poetry because it can be done anywhere and doesn’t require expensive supplies, unlike other creative outlets like painting and photography.
I typically use one of the two following methods.
When something is bothering me, nagging at my conscience, or interrupting my thoughts too often throughout the day, it needs a safe place to escape. So I start by figuring out what the issue is (if it isn’t blatantly obvious). Let’s say I feel hurt.
Hurt is much too broad of a topic to create anything that isn’t cliche. We need to go deeper. I will continue to ask myself questions (much like a therapist might) until I hit the flaming hot center of the issue.
Follow me on this exercise:
Why do I feel hurt?
My relationship with someone isn’t going the way I thought it would
What’s different about it?
I thought I could trust him.
Why don’t you trust him?
He started off so sweet. Now he’s kind of pushy.
Pushy about what?
How is he pushy?
He just…expects it. Like I owe him.
How does that make you feel?
Like a slut.
hurt → lack of trust → sexually pushy → blames me → slut-shamed
This internal conversation can happen in a matter of seconds or it could take days. Once I’ve narrowed down the original feeling into something more definable, I encourage the concept to tumble around my mind for a few more hours or days.
I’ll end up with bits and pieces coming together slowly. Sometimes I write them down just so I don’t lose them or so they don’t keep me up at night. Other times, especially when they develop quickly, they do just fine in my head.
When I’ve got enough pieces to work with, I sit down and write it, including edits, until it’s ready to share. This is where focus helps. Write your bits and pieces down, rearrange them, connect them, swap words out for better ones (there’s no shame in using a thesaurus!) and don’t stop until it’s done.
Well, dang. That was a bit…intense. You might be thinking, “Is that really what he said?” The answer is no. He said a lot of things like it so it’s not far off.
Then why the drama?
Because you weren’t there to experience it, my words have to magnify the situation in order to bring you even remotely close to what I felt in the moment. Even though these aren’t his exact words and they didn’t happen all in one conversation (or even all with one specific guy,) it gives you the feel of the situation. That’s what poetry does. It packs a lot of punch in very few words.
With this method, I start with a prompt, often just one word. (@TastyPoems on Twitter are my favorite!) For this example, let’s say the word is bereft.
Hm. It doesn’t do much for me initially other than give me a general concept of lacking something. My instinct leans toward a lack of affection. I need lots of it, so this makes sense.
In search of further inspiration, I look the word up in the dictionary. Some of you smarter folk (*cough*vocabulary nerds*cough*) may be able to skip this step.
deprived of or lacking something, especially a non-material asset.
“Deprived” adds to my original line of inspiration, but nothing else grabs me. That’s not always the case. Sometimes other words in the definition or even synonyms can kickstart my inspiration.
From this point, I use a similar process as Method One, but draw on different areas of my mind. Here’s what I’ve got so far: Bereft of affection.
What are some other words for affection? Hugs, kisses, passion. Okay, I guess I’m going with physical affection here.
Passion. I like it. Bereft of passion. Phrased as such, it gives me the feeling like I could never be satisfied. Insatiable is another good word. I jot these down and begin to explore in more detail what it is I want and how I feel when I don’t get it. Bits and pieces, rearrange, upgrade words, and bang! I’ve materialized another dark part of me.
In The End
Method One poems tend to be the darkest because those are the thoughts that haunt me. Whereas Method Two poems help keep the visible surfaces of my mind clean and dust-free. Maintenance, you could say. I’m glad to have conquered both and feel better for it.
Once the thoughts have been immortalized in words, I am free of them. It’s as if my pen and paper (or keyboard and Google doc) are a scapegoat for my troubles. Now I can go about my business with a smile and it’s not fake. It’s real because I’ve escaped a dark moment.
What is your outlet for dark thoughts? Do you have a process?