Horror has always been my favorite genre, and darkness my favorite flavor of human expression.
When I was around 5 years old, my parents divorced. My mother was a Christian housewife, and my father was a horror cinephile and videogame programmer. While we were with my mother, my brother and I were forced to attend church on Sundays and I was frequently banned from reading books and games that had magic or “satanic” things in them. There was always a soft, persistent air of oppression in everything we did. From her I learned that emotions should be pushed underneath so they couldn’t interfere, and our true thoughts hidden. We needed to be ever vigilant, in the way we pressed our shoulders back and stared straight ahead and avoided eye contact with anything that might lead us astray – which included D&D game manuals and. If we didn’t, the devil would insinuate himself into our lives and we’d begin to live in evil, abhorrent ways. God would abandon us, and we’d be adrift without his love forever.
My dad used to say nearly every time I saw him, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” Which, isn’t difficult for me, as I’m terrified of nearly everything. Getting out of bed can sometimes be a Sisyphean obstacle. Even if I hid inside the sheets all day my mind would find ways to come up with scenarios to terrify me – death by apathy, a sudden illness, a life lived in shallow depths.
“Do not look around thee to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through the acts which must be done by thee.” – Marcus Aurelius
I was supposed to work on the book the other day. Instead I went to the beach with the dogs. The sky was overcast, and I wore my boyfriend’s hoodie and my black leggings and tried to remind myself to be present in each moment, to not feel the heavy burden I’d placed upon my chest, to let the guilt of not writing wash away. After the beach, I fed the dogs burger patties in the back of my car and put vodka in my smoothie from Jamba Juice and dyed my hair. I didn’t write at all.
What kind of writer are you, and what do you have to change or improve to be where you want to be?
Wherever you are in your writing career, self-reflection and the ability to change course is always a useful vehicle for improvement. I ran across some notes I’d written to myself a few years, lifted and repurposed from an ACT therapist’s manual about the different categorizations of therapists. The manual asked the reader to imagine that choosing which category they wanted to be in (Good, Very Good, or Excellent) was as easy as selecting items off a menu. Everyone has intrinsic ideas of what category they are in, and which category they want to be in. I decided to repurpose this idea for my own profession – writing.”
Empathy is one of humanity’s greatest assets. The reason that we’re able to enjoy stories is because we can easily slip into the thoughts, motivations, and lives of other humans. The origin of the word “empathy” comes from an ancient Greek word, empatheia, which means passion or physical affection. Our understanding of other people inspires passion in us, emotion. Social animals like dogs are much more intelligent than solitary animals like cats, because they have to be built to understand others. Our empathy is partially what makes us intelligent, and allows us to build society in the first place, because we can actually see other people. When you read a book, you’re empathizing, feeling passion for the characters. You’re strengthening your ability to understand others, and thus, improving the human race. (more…)
I’m staring down my novel like it’s a feral dog, black and ragged and spitting in the corner. Maybe one day writing a long manuscript won’t feel like fighting an adversary. Maybe one day I’ll understand that all of this pain, confusion, and little spilled out drops of astonishing revelation that come with writing a novel are part of some eternal recurrence. I will understand intrinsically Nietzsche’s idea of Amor Fati or “Love of One’s Fate.” I will understand what Bukowski means when he feels like he can’t go on and laughs in the face of recurring misery.
When the dream meets reality, you have to deal with real problems that the dream could never actualize. Many days I romanticized about being able to spend all my time writing, living in a solipsistic wonderland inside my brain, sipping coffee and vodka while I wore turtlenecks and a disdain of all worldly things. But right now I’m on about year four of a long-term writer burnout, a time in which I often wondered exactly why I was writing when seemingly most of the joy had been sucked out of it for years. Since I was 19 years old I’d been writing daily, with hardly any breaks except to work to earn money or to practice being miserable. “Real writers write every day,” I told myself, and so that became a chain around my neck that I used to hang myself.
Note: You can read the first part of the series here.
The woman writer was, for most of human history, a novelty. For every Sappho, Enheduanna, or George Sands, there were scores of men writing and defining our history and our culture. It’s not difficult to see why women did not have the same opportunities to become writers: For much of civilization, women were treated as either pretty chattel, nursemaids, wives who were enslaved to their husbands, or were expected to give up their person hood to bear children. In essence, sub-human. Unless they were prostitutes or rural workers, women were not expected to work in business. They were often confined to the home, having nothing but their children and husband and the occasional family member or social visit to define their worlds. Women who managed to be writers often had to be affluent enough to have the time and education to be given the space to write. Only a few woman, in comparison to their male counterparts, managed to achieve this with the restrictions they had on their person throughout our human history.
There will always come a moment when the joy of discovering a new artistic medium (I.E, writing) is eclipsed by the fear of not being good enough.
The amount of courage required for a task does not necessarily equate to an equal amount of compensation, success, or satisfaction.
You are right to be afraid of the writing life. It is lonely and often without prestige. The amount of time and effort put into improving your writing or creating a work of writing is rarely rewarded with a satisfactory amount of praise or money. But at the same time, if you’re a writer and you’re reading this, this probably isn’t a deterrent to you. You probably understand that the reward of the writing life isn’t in the reward, it’s in the thing itself. The reward is in the moments alone when the words flow outward and inward, connecting you to the entire universe.
I think if I could give my younger self advice that I probably wouldn’t listen to it would be to actually learn to enjoy life. Which when said out loud seems silly and self-evident. But I spent a lot of time refusing to do anything that would sway me from the goals that I had (I remember becoming furious at a boy in college for wanting to spend time with me, because it was taking time away from writing), unaware of the reason for why I was doing such things, or that refusing to take a break would burn out the enjoyment for anything.