I haven’t written much lately and only have a few short story sub decisions outstanding.
Writing (with a specific purpose) has taken a backseat to everything else. Considering I’ve only been actively submitting work since the tail-end of 2019, this probably shouldn’t be as bothersome as it is (to me). This lull, this deeply uncomfortable, gut-churning, head-aching, creaky death-rattle vibe of a damned lull has created a fracturing within; what’s the harm in another one?
A couple of weeks ago, I could’ve screamed if I wasn’t so agonisingly audio sensitive — which hasn’t resolved yet. I’m sure the screaming would’ve shattered my pain riddled spine. I pictured the exploded shards; the bone shrapnel ripping through muscle and skin. My head hurts. I thought that maybe I needed a hit; a rejection, an acceptable, anything that might kick the cogs into motion — at least that’s where I was last week. Maybe something outward was needed to push a tangible, create type locomotion into motion. Even with that, time is a merciless taunter, and with too much else going on, there’s never enough of it. Though, writing is air. I am dependant on its ability to quench and quell things that nothing else can. I’m co-dependent on the pen even when words are just scrawled onto old paper and shut in a drawer. This digital tapping is a placebo. They say there’s a form of eternity in the code of numbers; to me, the figures are a mirage that melts away like ghosts.
I’ve not been writing (much) — it doesn’t mean I’ve been out of contact with the words. We’ve been serenading in other ways. Ways that should benefit the stories when they get their time again.
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.
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.
This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace. It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace. Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass! So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around. Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way. As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.
In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.
Upcoming release from the Devilishly Devine ‘Macabre Ladies’ is their Anthology ‘Drabbles of Dread.’
As listed in my Books page, it is live for Pre-order from Amazon now, for release on the 15th July 2020!
This will be the 4th Anthology from the talented duo – Eleanor Merry and Cassandra Angler, and I’m excited to be a contributing author in 3 of these; Dark Valentine, Dark Solstice and this upcoming Drabbles of Dread. From all accounts this one promises to be the Darkest yet! So, if you enjoy dark micro horror check out this collection (and their back catalogue!)
If you’re a writer and have a dark drabble you’re itching to share with the world, then submissions are still open for a few more days – check out their website or Facebook for details on how to submit!
A couple of writing and publishing projects are currently underway so I thought I would drop a brief update here.
The second ‘Concoction’ anthology is one which is scheduled for release December 2019. This time the prompts are most distinctly Scottish and will feature the same three writers as the first volume; G G Flavell, Natasha Sinclair and Andrew Taylor. As before it is open genre so we should expect a unique eclectic mix of stories. There is potential for a fourth writer to be added to the bill, will just have to see on that one. The initial story submissions have started coming in though and it’s looking pretty good! You can’t beat a good wee Ceilidh!
It is also very likely I will be releasing a mini collection of poetry and drabbles this year. These pieces have already been written, some have been published and some have never seen the light of day beyond the notebook. One again an eclectic little mix of material. Very organic in nature, as with my own style of writing. Themes running through those collected so far include; depression, relationships, politics, sex, freedom, nature and more.
Laying the last body down on the bed, I studied them both, side by side. My beautiful loyal white pups. They looked as if they were peacefully sleeping. Dreaming still. You’d never know by this sight that I had snapped their necks. Still warm, the serenity of death. My wrist hurt. It was almost over now. There was nothing left to hold me back. I stepped up on to the vintage blue weaved wooden stool. Reaching above I put the prepared noose over my head to my neck and jump forward. Swinging and choking, why didn’t my neck just snap?