Learning to Write VII
He has lost his way. He reaches out, wondering what is around him. It is night but there is no moon, not even the twinkling of the odd star. The ground is uneven. Slowly he begins to realize that these objects are the trunks and branches of trees, there is the tangle of undergrowth and if there are any wild beasts in the area they are holding their silence, watching quietly on the sidelines.
Although he can see nothing, he has the feeling that a way forward exists, and the very fact of forging his way forward in the darkness will eventually bring about the conditions for light and, subsequently, sight. As he fights to orient himself the light from the rising sun penetrates through the thick growth of the forest, and he begins to see.
This is how Dante opens his master-work, the poem, the Divine Comedy.
But it is also how most writers, if you corner them, will describe the act of writing, at least the beginning of that process.
I don’t know whether to use the word desire or the word compulsion to describe what takes the writer into that darkness and keeps him or her there until the sun comes up. Neither of those words exactly identify the feeling, but it is something like desire or compulsion which is at work.
Perhaps it is a wish to die to the light of our everyday world, to plunge into the unknown in the hope of discovering something new, something unheard of or unimaginable?