Going Dark

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by Beth Vogt

Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer.

Not a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or – like my husband – a spy or an astronaut.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that being a writer is, at times, similar to being an astronaut.

A writer is like an astronaut because they:

• spend years training before the launch. (Edie Melson, Co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference)

• are going into the unknown. (Rachel Hauck, award-winning author)

• are not bound by the gravitational pull of normal. (Reba J. Hoffman, My Book Therapy Member Care Coach)

Remember the infamous “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” pronouncement by Astronaut Jack Swigert, one of the Apollo 13 crewmembers? (Yes, in the movie Tom Hanks said “Houston, we have a problem” – but the screenwriters mangled Swigert’s words.)

At times, writers realize: I’ve got a problem here – with my plot, with my character arc. With my ending. I rewrote the ending of my novel, Catch a Falling Star four times. Four times.
While on deadline, I discovered another way writers are like astronauts: In 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts orbited the moon for the first time. They experienced 45 minutes of “going dark” – losing contact with mission control while they traveled around the far side of the moon.

In the midst of a book deadline, I forced myself to think like an astronaut and “go dark.” I lost contact. How?

• I told friends and family, “I’m living on deadline” so they weren’t surprised by my disappearance from regular life.

• I limited non-writing activities such as lunch with friends and other fun stuff (think: movies, TV shows, even my participation in my family’s spring break activities).

• I posted on Facebook: I’m on deadline & I’m Going Dark! Other writers are great at hounding you off social media when you should be writing.

• I upped my writing schedule. I got up earlier (4 AM), which meant I had to get to bed earlier. A non-rested writer means a non-productive writer.

• I ignored non-essential stuff: laundry, housework, cooking. Yes, I’m good at ignoring that anyway – but when I’m “Dark” all of that is invisible to me. I apologized to my family for the neglect-and then kept writing.

• I didn’t answer my phone when I was writing. Remember: Going Dark = No communication. Exceptions? In no particular order: My agent. My husband. My daughter’s school. A friend in crisis.

Is Going Dark easy? No – it isn’t for real astronauts and it isn’t for writers. But sometimes it’s necessary to accomplish the mission. To meet a deadline.

Have you ever Gone Dark? Any tips for other writers contemplating a trip to the far siding of the writing world?

Beth Vogt April 2013Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best is often behind the doors marked “Never.” Despite being a nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth’s second inspirational contemporary romance novel, Catch a Falling Star, releases May 2013 from Howard Books. Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy (MBT), best-selling author Susan May Warren’s writing community.

Comments 0

  1. Amazing Beth. I always wanted to be an astronaut until I saw the tiny sleeping quarters on the Space Shuttle. A bit too claustrophobic for my wide open space needs.

    It’s great to know that I can still “boldly go where no man has gone before” by going dark in my writing. And, I can do that outdoors! 🙂

    Great post!

  2. Oh yep, I’ve gone dark. One of the best things I’ve done the past couple times was tell my crit partner my goals during my “dark time.” And then I report into her whether I meet my daily goals during however long the dark season is–a few days, a week, whatever. She’s really wonderful, too, about checking in–seeing how I’m faring, offering encouragement if I’m feeling less than motivated, etc.

  3. I do go dark and like you, ignore all other things in life. Later I reward my family for their patience. When I sell a book, we got out to dinner. When I get a royalty check, we go out to dinner. So far I’m not going broke going out to dinner, but that’s the goal, right? Thanks for this time-savvy post.

  4. I did a simplified version of “Going Dark” when I wrote my first draft of my first ms. My family was very understanding and I told friends I wouldn’t be able to do things. They were supportive and encouraging. I made sure to keep my commitments only to those appointments I HAD to be at. It helped a lot in finishing that draft. I also set word count goals and kept a word count chart so I could see my progress. It was exciting to set and meet/exceed daily goals.

  5. Loved the “going dark.” I was relieved to discover I’m not the only writer who includes cooking and cleaning as non-essential when deadline looms. Wait, I kinda’ consider cooking as non-essential even when deadline doesn’t loom. I also have been known to cut down on showering and to sleeping in my clothes. Congrats on the new release!

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