• Valerie Miller

Oh, darkness be my friend




Thomas Hardy, ‘The Darkling Thrush’.


At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead, In a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited. An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small, With blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom …


I am always fascinated at how one moment I can be positive and motivated and within the course of a few hours drop into emotional darkness. This doesn’t just occur as a writer, but as a wife and mother, as a teacher, as a woman.

I am someone who will throw herself completely into a project or activity. Provided it is something I want to do. I can also be quite stubborn. If I don’t want to do something, then I don’t. It’s a simple equation of my life. Don’t want = Don’t do. Easy.

For activities that bring me great joy, ones that I have a great passion for, always attracts darkness. They are instrumental in opening a void, allowing a dark cloud of uncertainty to descend. Sometimes it’s a haze, sometimes it’s thick. Haze I can deal with. A cuppa tea, a walk in the fresh air, reading or spending time connecting with friends and family. The thick, dense kind knocks me around. Fortunately, these moments are rare, but they do exist, and they tend to appear rapidly, and with no warning. Last Saturday night was one such moment.

All was well. I had written just over a thousand words of my novel, drafted a short story, indulged in some reading, spent some time with my family and finished my first assignment for the Australian Writer’s Centre Freelance Stage 1 online course. All was good. Then night descended.

I live in Brisbane, originally from Sydney, and it's cold. Really cold. I shuffle around our apartment bundled up in slippers and a woollen shawl wrapped around my shoulders. I feel like an author tucked away from the world unleashing my words upon the page … well … screen. I now wonder, had this darkness descended because of the coldness. The dreary night skies. Or was it purely a moment of fear of not being good enough.

Whatever, the reason, when it visits, it damages my resilience and belief in my abilities. It works hard at shattering my dreams, my motivation, my positivity. Sometimes it makes me feel homesick for Sydney, sometimes it shatters my confidence in my work as a teacher. Last Saturday night it ripped at my ability as a writer.


This darkness brought me to my knees and so I scuttled away to bed, for sleep, a way for me to escape its treacherous grip.

On waking, I was met by a glorious morning sun that streamed into my kitchen when I entered to feed my cat and grab an espresso. My spirits were lifted. I could still feel the darkness there. Watching. Waiting. I chose to not engage but turned my back and reflected. I thought about where I was in my writing. I reminded myself that there will always be moments where I will question my ability. Where I wonder if this is all worth it. Then I do three things that always help. I talk to my husband about my writing, I read, I write, and then I clean. Cleaning has become the most therapeutic activity that has proven to work wonders. When I have scrubbed, wiped and polished my way through the apartment, I come through with renewed energy and resilience plus, I have a clean home. Bonus.

In the midst of this emotional tug-o-war, I remembered Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’. Hardy captures the essence of a dark cold winter’s night before he hears a thrush singing. A sign of hope for the coming new day. In my experience, I know that there is always joy after sadness, safety after fear, the dawn after midnight. It’s a cycle of life and I remind myself that without the darkness there is no light.

I have a wall of quotes and one from Stephanie Myer’s now sits amongst them.

I like the dark. Without the night, we would never see the stars. Stephanie Myers

I’ve had a good week. I conquered those dark feelings; for now. I remind myself that the sun always rises, and I know that positivity will always return. I remind myself that there will be moments when you need to have a tussle with those negative thoughts. This is life. This is creativity.



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