The Spiralling Pit

The Creative Mind & Depression

Let’s consider that the creative mind and depression are synonymous. This is not a new idea — even if depression is regarded as a disease of modernity. It doesn’t take much to cast back to common references of such stereotypes as the ‘mad scientist, ‘tortured artist’ throughout human history — there has to be some inherent truth in the link.
Personally speaking, there’s a maddening synchronicity to weaving art through mental ill-health. I loathe embracing this affliction as an illness; it’s an evil twin that’s attached itself to my core. But there’s no wavering — it is an illness. Maybe one of the soul as much as the brain. It torments the creative mind like a captor. For some of us, the relationship becomes a sort of Stockholm syndrome, an inescapable symbiotic horrorshow.
I abhor it, maybe as much as I was conditioned to despise myself. Then I wonder if that instinctual over-analytic contemplation, the drive to understand and develop answers and solutions — a catalyst of change, a fuel of creation has some essence that fills a need — even when it leads to nowhere on the external. With depression’s tightening hands around life and art’s (those too are synonymous) throat and no words, shapes or colour come in any sort of sense, with the abandon of insanity. And the heavy, sticky, tar-like stuckness of it. With maddening, head-bursting introspectiveness and reactionary to stimulus, even of a thoughtless kind. Those stimuli can be hardest to shake — that processing of depression, like art, can be sickeningly narcissistic to an observer. Beneath that appearance, it can be more from an altruistic nature, one that can never find peace from being consumed by so much needless suffering for deplorable reasoning. An internalised, ever-raging war of sadness, anxiety and frustration and their armies.
There’s a kindred spirit amongst those who suffer (I’m not keen on that word too, though it is accurate) at the hands of this demon. Depression; the stalker. It certainly tortures and bates like one. Of course, I point the finger at depression itself, but maybe that creative drive is too a demon of sorts; a need, compulsion, addiction. That need, that drive can be as desperate as the most basic needs to survive. Creativity is the thirst of the soul that demands quenching.
While there’s no hard, scientifically proven link that I know of (I could be entirely wrong), its long-running prevalence cannot be denied. Some of the most cherished artists have made their afflictions known; undeniable tales slithered through brush strokes and words and musical notes, pouring blood through ink. Van Gogh, Plath, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Cobain, Staley, Cornell… there’s an endless parade of those who’ve broken into utter submission to their affliction, how many more unknown names bound together alone? Scattering pieces of themselves before their demise, with vultures pecking at the bones for generations after, or they blow away ashes to the wind… forgotten. There is a desperate need to live in some form of immortality living in loops and repeats, words cascading through eyes in minds; breeding and living on when that mind has long ceased being. Depression when it dances with suicide and for those whom it jumps into bed with, it’s an oxymoron in a creative who scatters seeds that, for some outlive, that immortality craving, notes from the grave, the cry for help or the declaration of: this is just how it is, beneath it all.
Many years ago, a doctor (or therapist) remarked how maybe there was no way out for me, that my deep dark maddening downward spirals of self-torment and heavy sadness, the depression and suicidal ideations and (at times) planning, were a part of me… Victim blaming? Professional incompetence? She (like several) didn’t know how to help. I’m a hopeless case. Miraculously, therapy didn’t push me straight off the tightrope. I embraced that message to a degree, though. Therapy (for me) was utterly useless. (For some of those, the mentally unwell are fodder to their ego-mania of saviour, even if just in prescribed works, it lines their bellies enough.) More than that embracement, it added to the weight of hopelessness — even with professional intent, sometimes there’s no one to help but oneself — in that, I’ve had no choice in the toughest of times.
I sometimes lull around the button. The whisper has never ceased, it bides its time; the one that says, “you’ve fought long enough”, “waited long enough”, “it never gets better for long”, “just give up!”, give in”, “finally, make the pain stop….” Lifelong mental health battles have steeped into my bones, I’m almost convinced it’s the culprit for a multitude of ailments. Dancing with physical pain like a lover, spawning one chronic pain to another.
I have my tethers, strands that force my nostrils just above the murky water, choking and gagging with that whisper, taunting to submit to the deep.
It’s interesting, though — I mulled over this recently whilst amid a major dip. It’s funny the terms we use for mental ill-health, there’s a flippancy that almost minimises this beast’s brutality. When I hear the buzzword ‘wellbeing’, I feel the same way — it’s wishy-washy, a platitude coined by the utterly clueless desperate to appear to care. A painfully overused marketing ploy. Along with the flippancy, there’s still such stigma for when mental ill-health is discussed sincerely and from places of genuine life experience — not just a mere observer. Not that I dismiss the validity of good, unbiased observations! As a highly sensitive introvert type, I’m an observational questioner — constantly to the point of unbearably annoying.
Back to the point — yes, I’m almost sure the creative brain (certainly, my own grey-matter) is in an ever-constant dance-off with depression and her tormenting sisters… I’ve never been a good dancer, they toss me around like dead meat.

Figment

Pressing, softly through the cracks
Fragments of consciousness
Piston hissing speckled the dead-night

Moving electricity aside
She slips in like butter
Melting and reforming to what I once knew

She was melancholy like my heart
Sullen of soul
My scion mirror

The tunnel formed
Attuning the station
Between pre and post mortem
A hollow in this verse
A meeting place

We spoke about mortality
Not with words
It was all there, though
Moths fluttering in the air
It’s been a while…

Since we shared space
Since we shared time
She keeps reminding me, though
Those are figments...

Of faux comfort
Fool’s restraints
Flimsy, weak cortex
It’s not everything
Not even close

The cat’s body is in the next room
Upon the pink bedspread
His marbled fur of coppers and black
Still as the void
I can look if I want, she tells me
He won’t stir yet
But I can’t leave
Paralysed in the serenity
Permeating from her form

There’s so much more to that cat

The sun seeps in
Glimmers strain against the sides
Dagger sharp
Fragments tear the space asunder

I’m here again…
She’s gone.
© Natasha Sinclair

Murmur: Collected Horror

Earlier this year (and again this month), I shared that I aimed to release a short story collection this summer. Well, I’ve got major jitters — as always with publishing anything! Since I last posted about it, it’s progressed significantly — printed proofs have landed, and I’ve set up the eBook pre-order to force myself to suck it up and let it go!

The live date for Murmur is Summer Solstice – 21st June. The collection will be available in eBook, paperback and hardback. It consists of 8 short stories; 5 have appeared in print elsewhere, 1 has been published in an eZine, and 2 have never been published before. There is a Summer Solstice story in there to compliment the release date.

It’s been just over a year since I’ve published independently — Jumping back on that again has only heightened my gratitude to those who have accepted and published my work. Book building and formatting is a crazy business!

Beltane Creeps

Write, edit, send, wait…

This year, I vowed to drabble less and invest more time in short story writing and my two novels (in slow progress). In all honesty, with health and life’s curveballs I’ve struggled to find time, space and concentration. Running on empty as far as creativity is concerned, my general focus is pretty fragile and easily shattered — drowning in a sea of noise and clutter…
At least that’s how it’s felt, and I’ve beaten myself up about that. I didn’t want to respond to any drabble calls, but found myself veering over to that corner a fair bit since the start of 2021, with around 30 accepted drabbles in 2021 and a few blogged pieces. I’ve not yet decided if these are a comfortable micro distraction or kryptonite towards my brain’s ability to focus on bigger pieces. Regardless — if you enjoy micro-fiction, my little horrors will feature in upcoming publications from INSIGNIA STORIES, Black Ink Fiction and Raven & Drake, all to be released this year.

I currently have several short story submissions sitting in the hands of publishers, including two invite-only opportunities. Though that send button has been hit, I’m never nervous about rejections. If truth be told, I anticipate those more than acceptance — it’s the waiting that drives me slightly loopy! I hope to share more about these stories once responses are in, as the creation of each one was rather fun! For now, just a few of the titles in wait! 😉

The Junk of Magic

*Warning, this is a rant*

I was out walking this week with my children. Armed with bags and litter-pickers because rather than ignoring the problem and walking by in anger, we each have a responsibility to do something about it. And I’m not just talking about littering; I am a strong advocate in speaking up against injustices – whether to each other, other living beings or the environment. Keeping quiet and keeping the head down isn’t good enough. It’s cowardice, it’s weak, it’s a problem. There’s way too many of us that do that; if you are not proactive in becoming part of a solution, you are part of the problem; of that, I am a firm believer.

___

I recall an incident in early high school whereby a particularly nasty individual took it upon himself to verbally abuse and threaten me across a classroom of about 20 other kids AND a teacher. I stood up for myself, I was terrified, but I couldn’t wilt and cower as this bully wanted me to, even with the fear and terror coursing through my blood. I welcomed his challenge to action. This little dweeb loudly threatened to come after my friends (who were not in this class) and me after school. He threatened to stab me. In front of a teacher and class full of pupils – loudly – he said he would STAB me. The rest of the class sat silent. Witnessing and entirely inactive. The teacher sat silent – with her head down, the fear I could see coursing through her meek body. As my eyes pleaded at her to help in some way – she didn’t. I was a child, and I was appalled. If that mouthy Ned came at me in that room and stabbed me, as he threatened, I do not doubt that no-one would have ‘helped’. It would’ve just been a story they’d mouth off about after the damage was done. That’s only one highly snipped account of many from the glory days of childhood and the wonderful ‘safe’ public schooling system. If I had been attacked that day – every single student in that class and that teacher would have had my blood (or his) on their hands. Just as every one of us who walks past carelessly discarded rubbish, or ignores other acts of cruelty and abuse (for a quiet life, self-preservation, or because it’s not our business) — we carry the responsibility for the damage caused — especially if you choose to do nothing. The bird that chokes, it’s chicks that die, the domestic abuse victim murdered, the bullied kid that turns to suicide for an end.

It’s sad to say, for the most part, what I’ve witnessed in my time on this poor, messed up and abused planet – it’s all just talk and not enough doing. 

___

Anyway, when I was walking with my kids, picking up rubbish as we went, we passed through an abandoned fairy trail. Last summer (2020), in the midst of a pandemic, lockdown and folk rushing around to be seen to care, this fairy trail was one such endeavour. I have no connections to the creators. And I know my realist attitude to such things is ‘negative’ to superficial types. But, none the less, when I heard about this and saw it for myself last year — these little areas within some woodland were taken over with ‘cutsie’ painted signs and an absolute barrage of plastic toys. I did snort that this was someone’s ‘great’ idea of collecting and getting rid of unwanted toys, but dressing it up – you know for the ‘magic’, for the kids! I wandered through the wonderland of trash – I mean the delightfully lovely community fairy trail. I couldn’t help but think, I really hope they have a plan to collect and remove all the ‘decor’ which included glass items, tinsel, dummies hanging from trees, plastic blocks, plastic slides, dollies, lights etc…

Maybe I’m a pessimist, some would say, but I’ll stick to realist…

This was last summer, it’s coming up almost a year later; all of that junk is still there, and thanks to the elements, it’s strewn around the surrounding area – dumped, left, abandoned, trashed. My daughters and I collected and disposed of some little pieces that we could today, including a fair amount of broken glass, but couldn’t manage much given what we had with us – there is so much there – caught up in trees, polluting the nearby water. It’s utterly appalling.

It looked ‘good’ at the time, though, at least to the bright sparks who came up with this idea for ‘the children’. It’s a shame it wasn’t used as a follow-through learning opportunity about our responsibility to the environment and cleaning up after ourselves. Another half-baked idea. Broken glass, plenty of plastic to kill and injure the wildlife – it’s fucking magical alright. There’s obviously much more to this, but this really summed up the ‘community’ spirit littered through this pandemic year (for me) – all these fools rushing to appear to be ‘caring’ ‘do-gooders’ doing their bit to get a pat on the back but leaving a trail of mess behind for someone else to deal with. The neighbours banging on pots and pans, clapping for essential workers one night, then throwing get-togethers and making many non-essential trips between the applause. Hypocrisy at its finest. Creating magic and the pandemic buzz of positive ‘wellbeing’ in the community, for a quick-fix feel-good factor, then discarding it carelessly – the trauma and hazard left behind will far outlast the so-called magic. The fairies must be sleeping, indeed.

People Pleasing Massacre

A poem

From this tomb
I look at the massacre
I’ve made of myself
Taking in every ripple of depression
The marches of its succession
Binging and fasting like waves sloshing
Overwhelming loose skin
Drinking in the scars
Grooves deeper than can be seen
Slashes from the blade
Tracks worn into this sick façade
Embedded in the tomb
For me, there’s no room
Depressions refusal to be released
Sagging waves of torment
Dropping into the scalding water
Reddening surface and silver deep
Lie back
Just lie back let it sink in
Conquer the concave slave
Drench black-eyed face under
Revell in the nearing thunder
I can see through my corpse to the decomposition
My life’s mission
Taking in their rot
I’m rotting alive
No need to be a giver
They keep taking
Clawing at the veins
Sucking my blood with straws
Lie back further
Steer across the landscape
It ain’t too horrifying from this angle
The sags tighten
Silver streaks lighten
Red fades to blush
Embrace the incoming hush
I’ll lie here
Lie to myself for a while
Let the silver lining twinkle
A perspective shift
A momentary lift.

© Natasha Sinclair

February Mentions

It’s coming up to National sex day/awkward date day/chocolate day, or Valentine’s day if you prefer. With that theme in mind, The Macabre Ladies ‘Dark Valentine’ is currently on sale until the 14th. Being horror, it’s fair to say it hosts a bit of the good ol’ ‘Anti- Valentines’ vibe — it’s worth grabbing a copy or better yet, pick up the boxset which includes an array of flash holiday-themed horror!

Also, February is Woman in Horror month, so picking up something from this female-fronted horror publishing duo or indeed anything where a WIH contributes, is a great way to support the community, while (hopefully) finding a great read – we all benefit! Just don’t forget to leave a review!

You can find all things Macabre Ladies on their site: Macabre Ladies Publishing

While on the subject of The Macabre Ladies, book three in the ‘Drabbles of Dread’ series is out on the 16th of February! This one with themes of the supernatural. Currently, it’s an absolute steal to preorder before release day. I have five new flash pieces in this one too.

In my last post, I talked about a short that I finished writing — which I had loads of fun with. I am de-fuckin’-lighted to announce that ‘Fuckin’ Maggots’ was accepted into The Evil Cookies’s ‘Gorefest’! Thanks to Editor, K. Trap Jones, for welcoming my little offering of smut and splatter into the anthology. Looking forward to getting my hands on the rest of the stories in this one when it’s released — more info to come.

In the meantime, if you enjoy splatterpunk horror, check out The Evil Cookie’s already published books: The Evil Cookie Publishing

Best-selling indie Publisher and Author, Kevin J. Kennedy, also recently outed me as Editor in KJK Publishing’s new The Horror Collection: Yellow Edition. This guy is truly a force in the indie horror community, producing work not to be missed, and an absolute pleasure to work with. I am stoked to be working on this best-selling, predominantly invite-only, anthology series. I can tell you right now — book nine is a going to be a belter!

While that’s in the works, the previous eight books can be nabbed as a set or individually over at Amazon.

What’s Happening

It’s only heading towards the end of January, and I’ve too many ideas for this year! That being said, channelling one at a time and arranging my notes into some semblance of order is the (lifelong) personal challenge. Unless it’s for someone else my sense of organisation, with my own creative projects, can be chaotic.

On the well-organised side (the joy of the Gemini), I have opened the doors and made Word Refinery public! If you haven’t already, feel free to check out Word Refinery pages. I am opening up my editorial and proofreading diary to new clients. More info here:

Word Refinery: Editorial & Creative Support

Word Refinery: Terms & Conditions 

About 

Writing has been slow burn this month, with the exception of one completed short story – which, hands up, I love. It’s wicked — I can’t wait for folk to read it. It’s parked for an upcoming submission, but if it doesn’t make the cut (I really hope it does!), it will be published this year, I may even squirrel it away for my solo collection.

On that front, it’s been a year since I’ve personally published. In remedy of this I am collating some short stories with a couple of unpublished pieces to put out a collection this year – potentially in the summer, depending on editorial commitments, which take priority.

One Last Time

Biding time until reaper's weepers dispersed
The mourning departed to spread grief song

I linger until silence befell cemetery gates
Beyond the ceremonial bound

In observance
Solitary silence
Spiritual widow
I’ve waited…

Making way across the damp green
Souls stick in the mud sinking
Making my way to you
One last time

Love out of sight
Residing now on opposing dimensions
Held in the brevity of penumbra
Lovestruck in shadow
Your dark spell, loves curse

By the mound afore you
I stare into your pit
Imagining the pits of your eyes behind the box
Pondering the transparency of your boxes of fabrication
Heart-shaped carpentry, weak to these sorrowful eyes

My love on a fine line
Kneeling with my hands in your mud bed
I climb into your grave
Lay atop of your box poured with flowers you hate

Deep in the hole upon my loves burial bed
Breathing in the fumes of your death
Feeling deaths whispers swarm my head

Love eternally buried in me
Beyond the finite blood and bone
Can you feel the heat penetrate your cold corpse?
I lie in your pit
Widow death shroud 
On top of my love…

One last time


© Natasha Sinclair

Quick 2020 Wrap Up

Just dropping by with a quick 2020 writing (or more subbing) wrap up since it seems to be the thing to do!

On my first year actively subbing and writing for specific calls, this has resulted in 58 pieces accepted for publication. 42 of these have been published this year – 8 Short Stories, 13 Flash Fiction, 20 Drabbles and 1 Poem. The remaining 16 accepts will be out in 2021.

I have been lucky to have my work appear alongside some cool folk from around this wee planet. Thankful and grateful for the opportunities and encouragement from my friends, family and writing community. Writing wise it’s been a pretty fun year — I’ve learned so much and developed some new skills along the way.

As for the rest of 2020, it will not be missed!

2020 – that’s plenty, be on your way!