Since I’ve started complaining about my self-proclaimed “writer crisis”, I can freely admit that I haven’t done much to get out of my funk. I go through patches where I think that I could easily just stop writing. I’ve published a book. Readers have emailed me to tell me that my writing helped them feel less like garbage. Book blogs write nice reviews. I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted but I want to achieve more. Yet, now I’m perpetually stressed about not being able to write. It’s creative stress, which is awful because it’s the kind of stress you could easily rid yourself of, if only you just stopped being creative. Which should be easy.
More people ask me how my kid is than how my writing is going, so I could easily just stop writing and focus more on my kid and do the whole mom blog thing and devote more time to my Pinterest pages and fake my way to nostalgic 50’s housewife madness. I could pop out the second kid people keep harassing me to do. I could start drinking TAB. I could put all my effort making sure that my kid(z) don’t grow up with the same insecurities I did. Except I can’t do that, because I just spent some serious time explaining all my hate for modern day parenting in a creative paragraph, and you just can’t shake it out of me, man.
That’s a moment that every writer will go through at some point. That slack thought that you could just quit and go on with your life. But then what? At the end of the night, when you put your kid to sleep and your husband goes to bed because he has to work at 4AM, and you either pour a glass of booze or coffee or tea (depending on how the night is going), then what do you do?
I’ve spent the last few months attempting to start new stories, falling into a funk, dropping said new stories to start new new stories that aren’t as terrible as the new stories. Since I’ve had my kid, it’s been a lot of trial and error trying to slot my writer mentality back into my routine of parenting, part-time retail work, and 2016 presidential election coverage. It’s been hard. I’ve delved deep into YouTube. I’ve done enough online shopping. Nothing can tame those little thoughts that plague my head all day long. They are insecurities. They are voices that need characters. They are issues that need metaphors. They are ghosts that live in the left side of my brain.
My head needs a creative exorcism.
Lately I’ve been attempting to write horror. I’ve delved into a few of the horror tropes before, particularly with zombies in “Better Places” and metaphorical ghosts with “Ghost Story” (both of which are in Vile Men), but I wouldn’t say that any of my “horror stories” were intentionally scary. I don’t watch a lot of horror, as I enjoy being able to sleep at night. I love me some slasher flicks, but when it comes to real horror, I pretty much always choose sleep over scares. Every so often, though, I’ll come across a film that sounds intriguing enough that I dare myself to watch alone. A while back I finally watched It Follows, which was not only the ideal horror for a baby like me, but also the inspiration I needed to write something amazing.
The thing about horror is that it’s not so much about creating monsters as it is taking something you’re afraid of and making a monster out of that. For example, It Follows is about college-aged people facing the consequences of getting older and becoming adults. That fear takes shape in the form of an entity that can change into different people who follow the “carrier” of a sexually-transmitted curse. The carrier can pass the curse on, but the curse traces its away back to previous carriers if the current carrier is killed by the entity. It’s a bit of a mind-jarring concept, because as a young adult, you do what you can to avoid having to face “adult consequences”, and having to face them is the worst possible thing. At least for me it was. That’s why I didn’t go to the dentist for ten years after a horrifying root canal, but now I’ve found me a great new dentist (where the hygienist actually let me hash out all my dental fears and was honest and comforting about all of it before she even did anything to my face) and now I’m getting my teeth fixed and will eventually have to deal with the massive amounts of money I’m gonna eventually have to pay for it all. That’s some scary shit.
Enter the moodboard. Normally I find these kinds of things cheesy and extraneous, but I’ve always been a visual person, and I do enjoy making graphics to evoke the feeling of my stories, both in the title graphics and in my “sexy hipster graphics”. I’m really just putting what limited graphic skills I have to use. “Moodboards” are mostly used by designers to convey an idea to a client of some sort, be it for a website or a room or a party or whatever, really. But they’re also pretty trendy on Pinterest, and a lot of people use them to get some creative energy flowing with whatever sort of creative endeavor they’re striving to complete. So I figured I’d take a stab at it and see what new ideas it would inspire for my horror story.
After stumbling through a few pictures on Pixabay, and combing through my draft for whatever redeemable passages I could draw inspiration from, I ended up with a moodboard that I was happy with. I even found some elements that I’d quickly added to my story in its early draft phase (sheets, roses, and a garden statue) that I overlooked during my “I’m a terrible writer who can’t write for shit” phase this past week. After throwing some photos of those elements into my moodboard, however, I was inspired to fit them cohesively into the story. The board took my about an hour to put together — with the help of these free templates from Stuck with Pins. The process was engaging. Writing can be isolating, staring at a blank white page for so long. Having a chance to get my hands dirty with visual aspects aided me with grounding some ideas that I couldn’t draw inspiration from using words alone.
And now, when I retire to bed at 2AM, I can see my monster in my sleep.