The classic vision is one of a pale, full moon at midnight, clouds drifting by and the strange, uniquely nighttime sounds filling the audio tracks or our perception. A dark time for dark writing. It seems logical, but many writers of dark material, create it in the full light of day. The working relationship to the darkness comes from within. While the external ambiance can support or interfere with an author’s inner inclination and creative impulse, it is generally not where or how it begins.
Poe, for example, was a man whose life was riddled with sadness, disappointment and tragedy. Although “The Raven” made him famous, he had written a great deal before it, yet sold that poem for about $15. and died in abject poverty at age 40 from an uncertain plethora of ailments, many of which arose from his alcoholism and depression. He did not need the benefit of a dark night to write “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Masque of the Red Death” or “The Raven…”
He had an ample supply of darkness within himself.
Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” as an entry in a contest of peers to see who could write the scariest novel the most quickly. She won! This could not have happened had she limited her writing time to the candle-lit wee hour of night. The darkness needed to envision the tragedy brought upon himself by Victor Frankenstein by his hubristic efforts to create life, came from the fertile imagination of a very talented woman.
So, I would posit that the answer posed by the title of this article, “Is Dark Writing Best Done in the Dark?” is probably no.
That is not to say that many, many writers do not find both source material and appropriate mood for writing dark material within their own inner dark spots and the Demons that may dwell there. We know this to be true for many famous writers of the dark and/or macabre, Poe perhaps best known for this attribute among them.
On the other hand, there are writers of dark material like Stephen King who, when he is not playing in a rock band or enjoying his celebrity, does not appear, in any obvious way, to suffer from the pangs of depression. For him, the source material for his dark work seems to be what we call imagination.
Each writer is a different person and what inspires one may quell the creative impulse in another.
The ambiance that evokes literary creationism in one may flatten or completely stifle in it another. Looking for generalizations about writers and how they write what they do does not appear to be a particularly productive quest.