Not literally, of course. What idiot would try that?
I am referring to a quote I read over twenty years ago which has stuck with me. I was pretty certain it came from a book on runes, so I searched online just now and it did indeed pop up on a runes website as an interpretation of a certain rune reversed i.e. picked upside down. Runes, if you’re unaware, are little stones with special symbols on them, and are used much as you would use Tarot cards.
The bit I remember was: When in deep water, become a diver. Having found the full passage, here it is with some of the preceding advice:
“Take heart. Consider the constant cycling of death and rebirth, the endless going and return. Every thing we experience has a beginning, middle and an end, and is followed by a new beginning. Therefore do not draw back from the passage into darkness: When in deep water, become a diver.”
Having been involved in acting and writing on and off for nearly 25 years (mostly “off” with the acting, it has to be said), I’ve had my fair share of career ups and downs. I also watched my dear mum suffer from Multiple Sclerosis for most of my life, and fight two battles against cancer, and go through the last ten years of her life in pretty much constant agony after a fall that caused pain no doctor could ever deal with, short of zonking her out with morphine – which she didn’t want. She was a remarkable woman, brave beyond belief, and is terribly missed.
Those were dark times. They brought thoughts no one wants to think, and feelings no one wants to feel. Still, you have to deal with those issues or you can never fully move forward.
This was the time that I had my novels published. This was the time I was at my most creative. Writing was a lifeline back then, and I clung to it like a man in a maelstrom.
But there were long periods when I did go under, and nothing would get me back up to the surface, and that’s when I always remembered that quote: When in deep water, become a diver. Of course, the real trick is in accepting you’ve gone under in the first place, but that’s a different article altogether.
I always took that quote to mean that you’re down in the depths anyway, so you may as well have a good look around. Explore the scenery, ugly though it may be. Confront whatever’s lurking there, so it’s not so scary. You never know, you may even find a sunken treasure chest that forever transforms the rest of your life.
One of the best ways to become that diver is through writing. Getting your thoughts and feelings down on a screen or on paper can make sense of them; sometimes it even reveals what you never knew existed. It’s an amazingly cathartic exercise, and can liberate intense creativity of the sort you may never find again when you eventually break surface.
I killed a lot of people in my two novels. The second one especially, Man on a Murder Cycle, I simply couldn’t write again now; I don’t have that mindset. It’s pretty sick stuff, to be honest. It came from the depths. But I know both novels focused my thoughts on something else for the times I was immersed in them, and they channelled my anger and confusion into a money-making venture.
I’ve heard it said that John Cleese never wanted to write more than two series of Fawlty Towers because he wrote it when he was depressed, and once he started to feel better he couldn’t create that same hysterical vitriol – he couldn’t tap into it any more. I think it’s one of the funniest sitcoms ever written.
I have no idea what’s happening with any of you. But if you are in pain, and feel like you’re drowning, why not take a look around while you’re down there?
Then write like hell.