By Sarah Reichert
In the fantastic movie, “The Princess Bride”, a monk is explaining to the hero where he is upon waking.
“Where am I?”
“The Pit of Despair…Don’t even think of trying to escape.”
While this scene is comical, the Pit is not. It’s a place of torture, where years of one’s life are sucked away, and insurmountable pain waits. I only mention it because I’ve recently found myself in a similar place. I wake in the morning and the words run over in my head.
Where are you?
The Pit of Despair. The pit of despair…The Pit. The Pit. Despair.
How did I get here? More importantly, how do I get out?
The worst prisons are the ones we construct for ourselves. Because we know all of the ways we’d escape and we’ve planned ahead to keep ourselves beneath the ground in hopelessness and darkness that seems to stretch far into the unforeseeable future. We know just the things to tell ourselves to keep the stairs slippery and the doors heavy. We know just the right ways to stay away from our work, or edit before we even begin writing, or give up when the going gets tough.
We house the miraculously evil torture devices; self doubt, self-criticism, all manner of abusive and harsh retorts to the small voice of reason that stretches its fingers through the bars. There is no reasoning in the pit. Only despair.
It doesn’t matter how many words I eek out, or how many plot snafus I fix, it seems I’m always bumbling in the dark towards what I hope is an exit. I drag my characters along behind me, knowing that point B must be reached but unsure if it even exists. Out of fear or simple self-preservation I keep moving through the dark, though not with any heroine like strength and certainly no swashbuckling skills.
I haven’t found my way out of the dark yet. But I guess as long as I keep trying to escape, then all hope is not lost. The biggest fear that paces outside those bars is the giant and sharp-clawed possibility that one day I will wake up and not care. I will wake up and know that I’m in the pit and, like the hero was told, won’t even think of trying to escape.
So press on, wordsmiths. In your writing and in your life. You never know when the next tripping step may shove you through the critical door in your writing that will lead the plot out into the brilliant and blinding light of day or when the next unplanned turn will bring you back into the world; an escape from the pit.