An Unnecessary Dread of Everything

Fear.

Fear has been one of my greatest enemies throughout my life.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of appearing foolish. Fear of failure.

Fear has been the self-inflicted setback to almost every attempt I make at progression in my art, in my health, in my knowledge. Lack of confidence, I believe, is not the cause but a symptom of this disease. The true culprit, of course, is crippling anxiety – a demon whose point of origin I cannot quite locate.

Continue reading “An Unnecessary Dread of Everything”

Bonfire

Dead dry branch sends the blaze erupting
The air outside is cool enough to wear a jacket against the breeze
But step close to the towering flame and feel the skin of my arms
My face
Begins to cook like one would imagine a spit-roasted pig to feel

 

The faces across the way are obscurred
Laughing as they warm their insides
Pouring bottles and cans and flasks down gullets
It feels good
Listen to the crack and disintegration of the tree limb as it becomes ash

 

Voices speak but it is all noise all smiling hushed tones
It is enough to be present and enjoy the encompassing heat
Near the light of the fire the night beyond
Is so dark
Enough to feel alone if I stare long and hard into the violent whipping

 

On the ground beneath my shoe lay a small rounded object
Eyeholes and enlongated snout of a former mouse
Roll the tiny skull caked in dirt round my fingers until gently I let it fly
Into the flames
Wonder if I should have said something some incantation some solemn question
To the divines

Morning Fog

Tim swore quietly in the gloom of the house, following behind the silently marching border collie, excitedly tail-wagging its way towards the back door. It was that strange short period of morning, when the night sky first begins to give way to deep blue while the sun itself is still too far beyond the curve of the planet to be seen. But here Tim was, inexplicably conscious, taking the dog out for her regularly scheduled crack-of-dawn-pee. It was Javier’s fault that she was like this. He was the one that instituted the early morning potty routine. It was fine with Tim when he could simply turn and grunt whenever Javi got up at four in the morning for his shift, but now…

“Keep this shit up Innie and you’ll be an outside dog soon enough.” Tim said, same as he said every morning while the dog pawed pathetically at the door. Ingrid was the stupid name Javi gave her but Tim could never bring himself to call her that. If there was anything Tim hated more than dogs it was dogs with human names. It ‘suits her’ Javi would say when anybody asked about it and he left it at that, grinning like a jackass.

Tim opened the back door and the dog shot out, a blur of black and white fur. Already, the summer morning had brightened considerably, enough so that Tim could see the thick blanket of morning fog that covered the far end of his property and the woods beyond. Watching Innie snout around for that perfect spot of grass made Tim smile despite himself. He didn’t actually hate dogs, not all of them anyway. And though he was far from pleased when Javier first brought her home, Innie had grown on him over the years. From a barky little pisser of a puppy, she eventually evolved into a nearly obedient, mature adult. That helped a lot. Tim now mostly enjoyed the dog’s presence even if it did mean being awake at such an inhuman hour.

Continue reading “Morning Fog”

Push It Along | On Writing

There’s nothing more aggravating than experiencing a flood of inspiration and ideas while in the midst of a work shift, completely separated from any means of giving concrete form to thoughts. So, try as you might, you attempt to hold these racing, fluctuating processes inside your head until such a time is reached that pen can be placed against paper (or fingers against keys, as you do).

But, of course, when at last you are able to reach a place of quiet and there is time enough for those thoughts to decompress from within your brain, you find that nearly all traces of plot designs and character developments have escaped you. What’s worse, usually at this point you’ll find that all of your focus has evaporated, your mind exhausted from dealing with the  doldrums of the day-to-day grind. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of working (grateful as you may be for a job in this climate), the mental and spiritual recovery time cutting so deeply into time that should be spent on creativity.

For myself, I run into this problem on a seemingly bi-weekly basis. There’s a cycle, it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where it ends and where it begins. At one point, there is complete and utter hopelessness, a feeling of despair that the current Work-In-Progress will never be completed or that, in its current state, will never amount to anything of worth. Then, during the most inopportune time, sudden and complete Inspiration will strike, and the flood of ideas and mental rewrites will ensue, often with no mode to transcribe in sight. Next, finally the transfer of idea to written word can begin once time and space allows it. Sometimes, this transfer actually does work out, a new direction achieved, and for a brief amount of time, it seems that the flow of work is fully pressurized and perhaps unceasing. This is a temporary state.

Eventually, snags are hit, sentences begin to dry up, and before long the mind takes dark and twisted turns, believing that all the work achieved is actually trash. And thus, the despair once again sets in. All progress banished to the scrap heap.

I guess what I’m getting at is… I need a new modus operandi when it comes to my personal writing process. As many lists of “Tips for Beginning Writers” will tell you, relying on Inspiration is generally a recipe for disaster, or actually, stagnation (which is definitely worse, at least disaster is dynamic). The problem I have is that I look at the project as a mountain to summit, thinking that the peak must be reached as quickly as possible or at not all (lest I freeze to death?) when in reality, the quest for completion is a journey across a variety of terrains. At times the road will be flat and even and at others, the way will include steep ascents as well as descents – some perhaps subterranean.

The point is, writing a novel is not a one-shot sprint or even a marathon, it is not a non-stop achievement that must be pulled across the finish line at all costs so as to avoid any damaging self-reflection. Writing a novel IS a journey, one that will have many rests and setbacks along the way as does any proper adventure. The important distinction here is that a setback should not amount to descending the entire mountain and beginning anew every time something does not read right or a potential story thread leads nowhere or nowhere good.

Even if it isn’t easy, even if progress seems to be moving at a speed just barely above a halt, I must embrace the idea that it is still moving toward completion and that it is definitely not in reverse.

As the abstract Q-Tip once said:
If you can’t pull it, all you gotta do is Push It Along…

They Look Like People | A Review

To call this a horror film is a bit disingenuous but at the outset, They Look Like People (2015) sets the viewer up to expect a creature feature. However, to say this indie film does not deliver when viewed as a horror film would also be a misleading statement.

We are presented with the story of Wyatt, a man suffering from unspecified crisis in his life. Seemingly at the end of his rope, Wyatt visits an old friend, Christian, revealing to his friend that his previous marriage engagement has been called off. The relationship completely dissolved. Agreeing to spend the night at Christian’s place, we soon learn that Wyatt has been witness to demons masquerading in the guise of humans, walking freely on earth. More importantly, we learn that he is now wrapped up in a plot to save humanity from evil.

If you go into this film expecting a gory monster vs. humans romp, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. But in place of on-screen effects and action-filled set pieces, we get the far more effective use of unsettling sound design and a story that slowly boils up a sense of bubbling dread that adds weight to each scene as the film progresses.

Without giving the plot away, I will say that this film did a good job of obscuring the truth behind the narrative. We are offered an increasingly unreliable perspective given to us by Wyatt, a character who is portrayed as teetering at the edge of a mental breakdown. Often, the tension in this film is created not by what we can see, but by the murky promise of what terrible entity might be hiding around the corner or, rather, in plain sight.