A couple of weeks ago I finished my first semester of my MFA program, and in this most recent packet, I needed to turn in a critical paper with my other work. I decided to write about how authors look at conflict in their writing.
The reason I chose conflict is because in my writing, I tend to deal with struggle, pain, any sort of discomfort only once I see how the story ends. I look at conflict as a problem to be solved, not as something to be picked up and looked at closely. The authors I studied for my paper, however, suggest that conflict might have something to offer.
This understanding of conflict is much more freeing for me when I write. To look at the dark I can perhaps name a few things I might notice without worrying about putting a moral spin or lesson on them.
The week my paper was due, Hadley was sick. No throwing up, but she had a fever and was home from school for a couple of days. Our babysitter, who provides me with long stretches of time to write, was also sick that week.
When writing gets complicated – not the writing itself, but the scheduling of when to do it – my “mean Callie” voice comes out. She says things like this: “I knew this writing thing was a dumb idea. You were so stupid to try this now what with being a mom and all. You should’ve figured this out before you had kids.”
She means well, but she likes to take out my irrational thoughts and smack me in the face with them. And I usually believe what she’s saying, but I’m too stubborn to let go of trying to write just yet. So on a morning when Hadley was taking a nap – something she hadn’t done in years – I took out my critical paper and laid it across from Harper at the table.
Harper was drawing a picture of a “double tent” – a bunk bed for the outside, she tells me. She colored black around the tent for the night sky, and then paused and stared at what she colored for a minute. She looked at me and said, “That black is really dark.”
I could tell she was concerned with all that darkness when she leaned in to examine it more closely. “I can see a little big of green. Just a little bit,” she told me as her nose almost touched the paper. Then she sat back up, picked up the black crayon and finished coloring the sky, this time pressing harder as she filled in the darkness.
It’s not that I think Harper thought the darkness was OK. What I think is that she needed it to complete her picture of the double tent: a double tent for she and Hadley, “so we can have a sleepover outside and use flashlights.”
You need dark to use a flashlight with your sister in a double tent for a sleepover outside.