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.
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.
The act of writing day to day is such an isolating experience. I rarely leave my little den except to take my puppies to the park, or maybe go to the grocery store to pick up more chicken jerky and k-cups. Mostly I enjoy my quiet. It gives me the focus to take the everyday deep-dives into the snarled web of my consciousness, and occasionally bring back something useful. But it can also be derealizing – you can lose touch with reality, with the idea that what you’re doing has any use or value. Live too long in a dream, and the dream begins to warp you.
The moments when you can actually see the effect that your writing has on the outside world are rare. Going into a reading and meeting with other writers often seems to give me shellshock. Everything is actualized and real. You get to see the writers themselves, projecting forth the creations they made inside their isolated neurological soup. This past Friday I was asked to participate in Laura Lee Bahr’s “Bahr Crawl,” in which she travels across the country taking part in readings with other bizarro authors.
I read an except from my short story, Skin Suits, which will be out this year in A Breath from The Sky from Martian Migraine Press. You can see my transformation – from the protagonist in black, to the suit of “Sara” in the blue fur. I hadn’t really practiced my transition – so I think there were a few seconds where everyone thought I was stripping in the middle of my reading. Gabino Iglesias said he thought I’d finally snapped.
Laura read from her short story collection Angel Meat, out from Fungasm Press this year. Everytime I step into a room with Laura, she seems to make the air brighter. She’s radiant and vulnerable and open. I think the cover of her new collection manages to accurately capture her likeness
I crawled out of my cavern the other day to talk to J David Osborne on his podcast, The JDO Show. We talk about working on videogames, different game narratives, horror movies, my time with a group of vindictive witches, near-death experiences, gnosticism, Philip K. Dick, augmented reality, and why life isn’t as bad as we seem to think it is.
Today the table of contents for a Lovecraftian-inspired possession anthology was announced from Martian Migraine Press. My previously unpublished story, “Skin Suits,” will appear alongside stories by other writers such as Garrett Cook, Cody Goodfellow, and the eponymous Lovecraft himself. It should be available this summer.
Sometimes getting an announcement like this feels like coming out of the bomb shelter of my isolation to check the skies, breathe, see that I’m still a part of the human race. It’s always a shock, to pierce the veil of my mind with the realization that my writing continues to reach out further into the world.
In order to be a writer, one must build a life that is conducive to writing.
For most of my life I found scraps of time to write, moments of soft isolation inbetween work, relationships, the everyday minutiae. I wrote pieces of The Crooked God Machine on the bathroom floor of an apartment, parts of We are Wormwood when I was a video game tester at Zynga. But as time went on, writing kept getting pushed further and further back in priority, and I stopped submitting, stopped promoting myself. Everything I wrote felt muted, flat, like I was forcing each word through a little keyhole.
I arrived back in Austin in 2014 feeling broken. I never thought I could reach a point where I felt drained of all creative energy – it seemed impossible to me to feel burn out, so I never treated the possibility with the respect that I deserved. Here I was, coming off of my antidepressants, feeling zapped, bewildered. I was angry, and I wanted to murder people for existing in my space on planet Earth. And all of that directed energy was not going into writing. So when I came to the page, nothing felt genuine. It was like I was a sleepwalker, going through familiar motions.
I wondered for a long time if I just didn’t want to write anymore.
But it’s easy to ignore all the work I put in, throughout my life, to prime my brain to be productive. And how such a machine may run for quite a long time, but without maintenance or proper care, would eventually break down.
Writing is a full time job. The work doesn’t happen once you arrive at the page – it starts from the moment you wake up, and has to carry itself with you throughout the day. The brain has to be working on these problems constantly. You have to synthesize your experiences, test creative problems. Writing is a record of sensory data, distilled into stories. If you don’t do the prerequisite work, to understand and analyze your experiences and what you want to convey – you may have nothing
I think a lot these days about how to create for myself a life that would best enable me to accomplish my goals. For the last several years, I’ve struggled to find a cadence with my writing, and I’ve tried to understand how I want it to define me, and how I want to approach it.
Now I have the time and the freedom to build something wonderful, but building something takes time.
I want to taste books like big meals, and make big meals to taste the universe. And I want to refine, test, and experience more of the world so I can bring that knowledge back to my quiet room. Not to get back to where I was post burnout, but to make something even more wonderful. A beautiful infrastructure, in which I can live, and write. I’m already seeing flowers growing along the back of my spine