new yorrrk and other things

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I would like to visit two places in the new few months under the auspices of doing research for my novel: New York and Korea. Of course, they also call to me on an emotional level; I can never go too long without having seen either my hometown and my mother country.

I often wonder whether all my travel (thus far: to places NOT New York or Korea) is preventing my own travels to what Murakami calls “the underground” or “the dark place.” Or if I ought to choose destinations more relevant to my work. Or whether they will all help me travel to that place of truth. Or whether it doesn’t matter one bit.

I was up in Tahoe again–making time to visit Mono Lake, a beautiful lake stemming from prehistoric times, then abused and shrunken, revealing the remarkable tufas in the high desert air, looming out of the shallow salty aklaline waters. It is like seeing the skeleton of a lake, now being rehabilitated.

I want to, in my writing, expose myself down to those bones. I am reading some of my short stories and I do wonder if I am courageous enough–and I am apt to think that no, I am not. I am guarding some part of myself as I write. I read the work that’s been published and I now realize that the courage was there in those pieces. The published pieces are the ones that frightened me once written, as if seeing some part of me stripped bare.

These days, I’m thinking about Murakami’s comment about his writing process: about going to the underground and observing what he sees, writing it down. And then shutting the door and going back to the daylight. He also said he was not able to write in his early twenties because he had not had much hardship in his life–but that he began to write later because he had finally experienced hardship (he did not specify what that hardship might have been).

He spoke of the underground as “a dangerous place.”

I am wondering about the components to such travel. I’ve been discussing with a friend via email, who asks me the same–what do you think Murakami means by “the dark place?” Having the experience/content, and having what I see as “stillness” are requirements to making that journey

The dark place/underground/subconscious for me, contains all the things I sock away during my daily life. It is that closet of neglected and shameful and fearful feelings that I shed and hide. I was also raised to not acknowledge fear or sadness, and so this compartment has been artfully decorated and arranged…and terrifying to enter. And so going to the dark place is a scary experience, because I have to confront and process these feelings, find the stories associated with all the things that my conscious has rejected. It is time consuming and exhausting, but thoroughly rewarding. And sometimes I find some brilliant matches.

Of course this journey need not be so fearful or dangerous. It is, I realize, a very different place and process for many writers. Which leads me to some curiosity about what the “dark place” or “underground” looks like to you.

How about you? What do you think Murakami means by “the dark place?”

p.s. in other news, I learned today that you do NOT put metal forks in toasters, even if you plan on being VERY careful in fishing out the pita bread. Nope. Because you’ll get electrocuted.

And I also learned today what it actually FEELS like to get shocked like that, and how weird and sickening the feeling is, and how you are UNABLE to SCREAM while getting shocked (did you know this? Now you do).

And finally, I learned that should you get that sickening feeling of electricity running through your hands and up your arms…LET GO OF THE FORK QUICKLY. Because I did not let go quickly, as I thoroughly ruminated, “What’s going on? What is this weird and sickening feeling? Hrmmm. This feels really odd and very wrong. Why is this happening? Hrm. Am I? Oh wait. I think I’m getting–omg, ELECTRIC SHOCK!” (It takes a good 10 seconds to say all that to yourself).  And then and only then, did I drop the fork. As a result, I spent the rest of the day with tingling hands and arms, spaced out, nauseous, and very very very tired.

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9 Comments

Filed under Inspiring, Life, The Novel, Writing

9 responses to “new yorrrk and other things

  1. Eve

    Gosh, I don’t know whether to laugh about the fork story or wince… or both! Ouch!

    “The dark place.” I write about that regularly, as you know; but writing about it or knowing about it and actually going there are different things. I find that even when I go there and come back to the land of the living and am able to write about it, it’s terrifying afterward. I am not convinced it’s ever beautiful or soothing; but I do know that going there is rewarding.

    New York and Korea are not my hometown or home country, but of all the places in the world I could go to, they would be my top two. I love New York. And I don’t know what it is about Korea, but I love being there. I hope to go back within the next few years. So I hope you go, because both places must really do something for you, with your roots there.

  2. chaesq

    ok, PLEASE take this the right, bizarre, slightly-humorous, totally-off way i mean this and understand that it comes from a disjointed & exhausted brain that currently thinks EVERYthing is funny only because it needs to let out some stress: i wonder what the zap re-wired in your brain! (only good things, i hope!)

  3. Eve: it’s okay, you can laugh! and it wasn’t a high voltage shock, so I’m totally okay, just rattled and exhausted. i hope both our travels are good and bring us inspiration!

    chaesq: if it did rewire my brain, i hope it improved efficiency and creativity! 🙂

  4. Holy cow! Getting shocked sounds frightening.

    Interesting to read about what Murakami said. I’ve been having a conversation with a friend who said she’s struggling to write “dangerously” and even struggling to understand what that means.

    I think she must have meant digging into this place that Murakami speaks of. In some ways, I wonder if we fear going to that underground place because when we come out, we worry that our work will be misunderstood. Perhaps it means going to a place where we’re not afraid to push the envelope, or being brave enough to descend into absurdity.

    I’ve got a lot to think about now…

  5. This post is just filling me up with so many thoughts, so many questions for myself. Thank you. I wonder if I’ve really reached my “dark place” — I felt like I’ve brushed up against it, revealing parts of myself (with my grad-school thesis, the first novel I ever wrote), but not nearly enough… and the potential of it, knowing what I _should_ have said in that manuscript instead of what I actually did… it scared me off. I put that novel aside and never finished it. Except in pieces through random much-revised short stories.

    And I haven’t written something touching on that reality since. I need to. I need to see into it. You’re really making me think.

    Your electrocution story! Zow!

    Also, I really hope your travels take you to New York. I want to talk in person about this and so much more.

  6. anonwupfan

    Unplug toaster, then use fork 😉

  7. Stephanie: keep the thoughts going!

    nova: I wish we could talk about it in person, too. I know we’d have a fantastic discussion.

    anonwupfan: TOTALLY. Yesterday was a perfect example of Darwinism FAIL. 😉 Slept tons last night and feel better today!

  8. greenbeanclouds

    When I started writing, no one had ever mentioned ‘the dark place’ to me. The first story I brought out of there revealed myself to me in a way that terrified. I did not write for the next two years, or at least did not write anything true; I turned out a few unsatisfying and hackneyed stories that were ever so safe and ever so boring. After a series of traumatic personal events, I realized a couple of things. First, I am a survivor. I lived the dark place, and learned that it is around us all of the time, kept at bay only by our own felicitous choices or lucky chance. To ignore it, to not write about it, does not in any way negate its existence. Second, as much as I may have wanted other gifts (mathematician would’ve been nice!), it seems I’m a writer. After being in the darkness, I found that my gifts are my strength and help me to fashion a sort of meaning out of what would otherwise seem ultimately pointless. This is not to say that the dark place doesn’t still scare me. It does. I guess that’s why I almost never share any of the stories I’ve written with anyone, let alone submit them anywhere. I may be ready to face the dark place, but I’m not certain when I’ll be ready to reveal what I’ve found there to people who know me best as the one who closed the door and came back into the daylight (to borrow Murikami’s analogy). I try to keep firm boundaries between my visits to the dark place and the rest of my life, and suffer when I am unable to do so. I write in the morning and, by the time the sun is up, I’m a wife and a software developer, not a traveler to the inner dark. I am a happy person, despite the isolation I find in my version of the dark place. In some sense, I don’t think anyone can ever meet me-as-a-writer. Except, perhaps, through my stories, which I almost never share!

    Thanks for this post, and best of luck in your journeys to the dark place,

    erzsebet

  9. greenbeanclouds: thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences here as they pertain to “the dark place.” i hope that one day you do let the public read your writing and that you retain that balance in your life!

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