10.11.2012

The Horror Author Who Hasn't Written a Horror Book: Part II

Awhile ago, I lamented over the fact that I consider myself a horror author, but that I had yet to actually write a horror book. You can read about that here.

In the blog, I pondered why I hadn't been able to take my horror writing to the next level, and here is a snippet:
Writing horror is difficult for me, particularly in an emotional sense. When I write my horror short stories, I breath a sigh of relief when they are done. It's like sticking a toe into a pool of piranha just long enough to avoid being shredded. Horror requires you to go to very dark places, and because the hallmark of the genre is that the ending is often left unresolved (or just plain dreadful in some cases), there is no sense of hope awaiting you or the characters you've been riding along with for the past few months.
Well, a few months ago, the right horror story finally came to me, one I could easily develop into a novel. And in the process of writing that novel, I've come to learn that what I most feared would happen when I went with a longer form in this genre is definitely happening. I would not say I'm depressed, but the inherent mood of this book is definitely transferring itself to me. Or, rather, I've been mining away at the darkest corners of my brain much longer than I'm accustomed to, and I'm starting to feel the effects.  

When I'm not working, I want to sleep. And when I wake up in the morning, I don't feel like I've slept at all. I'm drinking a lot of coffee. I'm not eating as well (or as much) as I had been, and when I am hungry, all I want are fatty comfort foods. I'm feeling weepier than usual. Irritable. Withdrawn. Moody. Slightly anxious. Basically, my psyche feels like it's on the ropes.  

I don't know how horror authors do this on a regular basis without losing their minds. Then again, maybe it's something they've grown accustomed to over time. You become acclimated to those dark corners and it starts to feel more like a routine. A bit like how it must feel the first few days in high altitude before your body adjusts, or when you're first learning to play the guitar, and the strings are making your fingertips bleed until they form protective calluses. It certainly makes me understand, probably more than ever, why some authors turn to drinking and drugs to quell the demons. It's like opening a wound over and over again, and that need to anesthetize is very strong. And when you feel that way, when you're looking through your life through decidedly blood-colored lenses, you start to feel like shit about every other thing in your life, and that DOES eventually breed depression. 

Anyway, I'm making this sound like I'm killing myself with my work, and I want to stress that I have no interest in doing anything of the sort. I don't want anyone to worry about me or think I'm losing my shit or that I need some kind of intervention. I don't choose to treat negative emotions as taboo, or something from which I need to be "rescued." I'm allowing myself to feel these feelings and learn from them. It's teaching me things, like maybe I need to have more positive outlets in my life when I'm working on projects like this. I should be exercising more, keeping the endorphins rolling. I should be taking regular breaks to work on some lighter, more benign fare. My tendency to work obsessively when I'm "in the zone" may not be the right recipe for this type of work. Measured and controlled doses of exposure are probably the ticket.

But I can say this, and I am saying it without the slightest bit of ego. I feel like this is probably the best thing I have written to date. I truly believe that this book has forced me to push myself to a point that I have never been. I've lived in a loft above everything I've previously written, weaving things from a safe distance and running away if I feel like I'm getting too close. As a result, my work has had a quality of aloofness that I've always hated. Maybe not everybody notices it, but I do. I always have. There has always been this invisible barrier separating what I'm doing from what I WANT to do. Strangely, I don't feel like this barrier is there anymore. And maybe this brief stint in emotional purgatory is the price I'm paying for that. 

I think I can live with that. I'll come out stronger, and hopefully better, on the other side. Look for a part three to this unintended series in the near future.