What Writers Do In the Dark

The average person thinks of someone being “in the dark” as someone who is uninformed. That is not the case with writers, at least not in this conversation of mine at this time.

When I think of a writer “in the dark” I am talking about the secret place to which the writer goes: her or his mind.

That place where the writer goes in the dark is the safehouse to his or her imagination growing and conjuring. It can be dangerous to the average person, it can be frightening to a child, it can be suspect to the authorities, but it is a playground for the writer.

Young man reliving his childhood playing in a children’s playground riding on a colorful red spring seat with a happy smile in an urban park (he’s probably a writer.)

Consider some of the works we have read: Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” Ann Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” and so much more, I cannot even begin to touch the surface of the many wondrous, imagined, voluminous mountain of narrative and works of so many writers who tapped their “Dark Place” and wrote from that cave of secrecy the which to shock, outrage, touch and entertain us.

Many people think of writers as strange people because they stare, they are too quiet, or they have shifty eyes, laugh aloud by themselves, or just plain move funny (hence, the writer who is practicing a movement for a character) but you must remember: they have a whole carnival of action going on in their heads. Be kind and leave them alone. If he or she wishes, get them something to drink or eat; that writer may be working on a story about someone abandoned on a desert island,

or starving on an unknown planet somewhere…

And please remember, were it not for the writer, we all would sleep without nightmares, dream without plots, and not recognize the maniacs or serial killers that may be sitting next to us on the bus! Thank you writers: keep up the visit to that dark cave.

Morning, true and clear

Hi. A bit off topic this morning, not about writing or reading, but about contemplating something from another day or time.

Before everything starts, before everyone wakes, it’s Saturday morning, true and clear; without complications, without drama, without heartache.

The morning will always give that sense of hope, grace, gratitude. It’s there, you just have to reach out and grasp it for yourself.

When I wake up I tend to think way past the speed of light. Lately, though I’ve been checking myself, comforting myself that I need not over think the world, just take movement and connection as it comes and deals with each thing one at a time.

Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon watching videos on YouTube. I was enthralled with two men who are preachers but of the new age of our time. Nothing like the past preachers who preached with a traditional cloak of activity. Even their dress was very formal; not like preachers today.

The message, however, is the same, albeit different aspects of Christianity (one of Salvation in general, and the other of Holy Spirit, specifically) only Frances is within his personality and attire much more casual and endearing while Nabeel is more subdued and formal; both authentic human beings.

So I watched videos of these two preachers. Both men were immigrant originated: one was Chinese American, and the other was Pakistani American; both men born here, but raised by parents with their own set of traditions, culture, and religious beliefs.

Both men were converted in a wondrous way and both are men of integrity and spiritual height, depth, and purpose. I respected both men highly because I knew what they were talking about.  Being a believer, I felt they both were so authentic as to put most Christian-born to shame, including myself, why?

In this country, Christians are shamed into submission by the secular communities and there are so many, making cowards of most of us for fear of stepping on the toes of a protected group: a prophecy fulfilled (good becomes evil and evil becomes good). So most Christians live in silence, and soon they join the secular community just so they aren’t excluded in our country. This is what I want to talk about.

I was so saddened by the journey and final result of each man. I’m simply a little person without knowledge of the clergy, so from the outside looking in, I observe the sadness of it.

The Chinese American man, Frances Chan is a bestselling author and such an authentic man on video, such a forthright, loving Christian with a grand sense of humor and a large following. Evidently, he had no problem coming to Christ. Perhaps the Chinese culture is not as unforgiving, I really do not know why, but he appears completely well-adjusted. However, it was the Pakistani man that broke my heart. His journey was much rougher.

His family turned against him, and as he said, his mother was never the same. They never truly forgave him. He did not give up his faith in Jesus Christ, but he was so attacked by the Muslim community in letters, in person, in threats, and so forth. After eleven years he acquired stomach cancer, and at the young age of 34, he died, leaving his beautiful wife, Michelle, and his angelic daughter, Aya. In one of his last video interviews, he even joked about the horrendous emails he received saying they prayed Allah would kill him, or that he got what he deserved. Do you think enough of these kinds of communications can wreak havoc on your emotions? He chuckled but I’m sure he was hurt by these people.

I cried a lot yesterday, and I was pretty well ill-functioning for the rest of the day. Remember: I’m a hyper-sensitive person. Why did I cry so? I could not get Nabeel Qureshi out of my mind, as to his commitment to the cross. He truly carried his.

I was raised by a father who was a preacher. Yes, there it is. The joke of every secular kid in school was: “haha, you’re a preacher’s kid.” A PK. I was ridiculed, my siblings and I suffered a number of insults and incidents, having stones thrown at us, being called “holy rollers,” having people ostracize us from play periods for the reason that we were Preacher’s kids. It was a difficult childhood, to say the least. There was no glamour to it, as television portrays. But then, there were those that understood, agreed, and were kind. That helped, but the pain of cruelty never really goes away.

I cannot help think that the Pakistani American, Nabeel, must have suffered terribly after having been a devout Muslim, and as his parents made him believe, destroying the entire foundation of pride in his family name in Pakistan. After all, his father and grandfather were Islamic missionaries.

Yet, when I listened to him, my heart rose, broken, but elevated spiritually. His faith was genuine. Not that the faith of Frances Chan was any different, but I do not think Chan suffered the separation that Qureshi did. That is only my opinion. But God knows all, we don’t need to.

I think why I am even bringing all this up, and why my heart was broken is this. To separate oneself from all that you know and love, to leave the entire foundation of your life and sense of purpose, and while embracing another way, being ostracized from all those you loved and knew, and who believed in you, is the most difficult experience. One is crushed under a weight of insurmountable pressure when one loses everything and the heart is crushed in grief. But faith builds up again, albeit notwithstanding the scars that remain. It must have been terribly heartbreaking as he stated it took him a long time to be completely sold for Christ for the sheer fact that he went through deep grief.

Perhaps that is why I identified with Nabeel more than Frances. Although we all will be in heaven together, and we will walk in God’s company as well as our own, without time and space, right now, while I’m still human, I cry for the loss of Nabeel.  I am hopeful to see Frances continue as long as possible. All this thinking this morning amounts to this: there are so few authentic people in the world, much fewer men and women of renown character who bow to Jesus Christ.

I have never thought of myself as authentic, but so aspire to be. It comes with a cost though. As Nabeel quoted from the Bible in one of his sermons, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

I believe this statement attested to Jesus’ sincerity of purpose in this world. It also is the most difficult of all sermons Jesus gave (Matthew 10). For this reason, most people do not want to follow Christ, or should I say cannot. It always bothered me that the word coward was affiliated with all the other sins in the book of Romans. Now I see why.

I believe Nabeel, the once Muslim who became a true Christian, gave up everything for Christ, and it took its toll on his human body. But his was true faith. All Christians may have to do that someday as well.  I want to be able to do what it takes to complete the race.


61uScJv5jnL._AC_UL436_.jpg     “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi

81QH9gyspnL._AC_UL436_.jpg  “Forgotten God, by Frances Chan



Five Reasons Why We Write

© by Lydia Nolan

April 11, 2019

Five Reasons Why We Write

© by Lydia Nolan

April 11, 2019            

When I was a six or seven-year-old child my cousin said that I would be a writer. I looked at her with a blank stare. I did not believe her, much less understand the profoundness of the projection. I was hyperactive, noisy and could not stop talking or sitting still. I was constantly reprimanded for being an annoying kid, I was commanded to go and play outside most my youthful years just so I would leave everyone else alone. I was relentless.

            I began writing at the age of eight or nine, but I began to believe I was a writer by the time I was ten years old. Still, I did not think of it as something to which I would directly aspire, but I thought of writing as a means to an end. 

            I wrote because it got me to a place I wanted to go, where I could explain things that happened. Telling stories helped me complete something that I wanted to complete—allay my desperate need to explain things. You could say I was a memoirist from that age to the present though I’ve never written a memoir formally. But I did get my training from practice.

            For example, writing a script verbatim to reflect a movie I was watching and loved so much that I wanted to make sure I’d always have it inside me (there weren’t videos in my time), I would create a “script.” Then, I would act out all the parts myself, memorizing distinctly each character’s voice, gestures and facial expression; my mother said I would be a great actress. 

            I did that with “The Bride of Frankenstein.” I learned all the parts and acted out all the parts for my cousins. My scripts became special to me and I carried them around like textbooks. I would later use various scripts to assign parts to my friends and teach them how to act them out. After that came many horror movies; my favorite genre.

            We write for many reasons. For example, Kelly Cherry, who is a writer and wrote for WriterMagazine, said it’s not about money, and it’s not about quick recognition. Both of those covetous luxuries lack more times than not with writers. Cherry goes on to say: “despite all the reasons not to choose it as a career, writers are driven by a primal urge to tell people who they are. (Psychology Today. Feb. 14, 2018. Web)”

            Studies show that writers attempt to make a connection with a reader; it is an intimate connection because only the writer and the reader are involved—like telling secrets. And writing is controversial in that it can be to some painful and agonizing, much like delivering a baby and having labor pains in delivery. While others may disagree and say it is easily expelled and is liberating and reveals depth in a writer’s need to communicate.

            One can argue that we can create intimacy any other ways as well, so why write? However, a writer with such a need who creates an intimate connection with one person can connect with far more people at a time—their readers.

            Since I was an annoying chatterbox I began writing poetry to expel the need to identify myself and share my thoughts, and later on, I began writing stories for the same reason. The entertaining part was the way for me to communicate those ideas, thoughts, stories, and so forth.

            I have always loved school, particularly my English classes because of the fact that the instructors always made us write. I see writing essays, comments, notes, and stories as the truth of intimacy and deep communication. The famous “Fear of Flying” author, Erika Jong, says: “we write for love.” That is perhaps the general consensus. But not necessarily for merely to love others but to have others love us as well.

            Regardless of how it comes about for writers, it burns in us and cannot be dismissed so easily. Some of us may have had something that happened to us that made us feel the need to put it down on paper, and afterward we were hooked. So here are some points that might help you identify the writer personality. See if it resonates with the experiences that made you believe you were a writer and were meant to write.

1)   You are an intense observer, mesmerized by how people talk. You begin to distinguish the differences in their speech, tone, mood, dialect simply by listening oh so carefully. Further, you try to write those sounds with words on paper.

As a kid and loving those monster movies, I recall watching carefully the movements of the characters, but also their voices. After I began writing scripts in the crudest way a child could write, I would work hard to make the words fit the sounds. For example,  in the Bride of Frankenstein, the doctor is ecstatic because his monster is coming alive. He is hysterical due to fatigue and his emotions have gone awry. So I remember writing: “it’s aliiiive, ALLIIIIVE! HAHAHAHA! (gasp) HAHAHAHA (gasp)”

The emphasis in his voice is the capital letters along with the length of the I’s to extenuate the word, alive… aliiiiiiive. 

2)   Were you once obsessed with how letters look? Perhaps you may have even taken a Calligraphy class. Maybe you experimented with new ways to write your name, letters or words in an artistic way. These days we can compare with that with the computer, typing various notes with ways in which you express your feelings. Nonetheless, you write! For example, in my day, I loved writing letters to people and would try and write with fancy loops and curls. The pen in my hand, the white plain paper revealing the voice that spoke in my head, all of it, was superbly orchestrated by my brain and hand. Using various fonts on our computer to “decorate” our emails is similar to what I did then, even using colors to demonstrate mood. In times before the tech explosion, I’d use colored pencils to brighten up notes or letters.

3)   Being intrigued by words unknown is an opportunity for word lovers to get to know them and extend your vocabulary. Sometimes, if you are truly drawn to words you may wish to know where they came from and whether or not they had different meanings in the past. Many of my friends who are now writers used to look up every word they did not know; so did I. Afterward, and just for fun, we’d use them in our letters (your emails) or aloud as we spoke, discussing words and their newly found use in our letters, essays, and so forth.

4)   Speeches with words and sounds in the speaking would catch a writer’s ear more readily than the usual audience; a writer’s senses are acute and that is why critics comment on plays, speeches, and the like. You might experiment with speech writing to your parents, your friends, groups, etc., desiring to move others by your speaking or words being written, because you know it is possible; you know the power words have.

5)   Finally, you have a burning desire to communicate to people, which becomes for you the most intimate of relationship and self-revelation; even as you write you learn who you are. It may have begun by reading but it does not necessarily always start that way. A book, a movie, a speaker, a preacher, any communication in which words are used to move, impassion, incite, or leave a lasting and emotional impression, may create in you that burning desire to be intimate with others in this type of communication because it happened to you.

            It may seem strange to a writer that not everyone has these types of characteristics, but believe it or not, there are people that could care less about how to impress people with words. They leave it to people like you and me to be their mediators in the world of emotional movement. 

            It has always been funny to me when I was a child that writers never get known or demand fame aloud. If they receive fame or fortune it is incidental to their innate desire to communicate. Perhaps Erika Jong was correct in stating her understanding of the purpose of a writer: “we do it for love.”

Review of “Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Review: “Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

“The panic that overtook me then was hard to explain. Those game days broke up with a swiftness, a sense of losing blood almost, that reminded me of watching the apartment in New York being boxed up and carted away: groundlessness and flux, nothing to hang on to.” (p.303)

While the title presupposes a story about the famous painting by a Dutch painter of the 1600s, it is really a trope that threads throughout the novel, indicating how one who has been traumatized, needs some kind of connection to that life before the trauma.

This is a story about a young fourteen-year-old boy whose life in the backdrop of New York City is routine and phlegmatic. Abruptly his life changes from a protected child into a motherless frightened kid, into finally a drugged out, piteous orphan, after meeting and living for a short period with his father.

His drugged out existence informs us, without ever really saying it, how one can become a sad and lonely human being; all this beginning within a few moments, as his mother is blown away by a bomb in the museum they were visiting for a while before he and his mother keep an appointment with his school principal. Talk about a twist of fate.

This is a true bildungsroman and the reader will find that the main character, as well as all the other characters, will resonate throughout, and long after when the reading is finished. I could not stop thinking about the author, the character, and the many situational ironies, consequences of fate, and so on–all of which made me thankful for the happy moments we all receive here and there before any kind of trauma exists.  For those others who may not be so fortunate, or who may be beleaguered by hard circumstances that force choices one might never have taken had one never experienced sudden tragedy–my heart has been touched forever.

I am looking forward to reading her first book, “The Secret History” because not only does she reign in storytelling, but her turn of phrases, her metaphors, and her way of telling it, glistens with a cup full of romanticism; she uses the English language masterfully. You will certainly attain your money’s worth of a read, as many others agree, for she has won the Pulitzer Prize in the year of its publishing, was considered one of the best books of the year by many authoritative journals, magazines and on and on.

The psychology in the novel, by enlisting a host of diverse characters, demonstrates a child’s loss and how that child who suddenly becomes orphaned may lack love and guidance and the way in which people survive in spite of loss but inherit an anomic character, such as the main character Leo. This is an interesting term, anomie, and is further explained in sociological definitions: https://www.britannica.com/topic/anomie