I Catch Monsters

I catch monsters.

They gesture in the confines of 8 mm film, screaming at the camera lens. Their mouths gaped, finger-pointing, accusing, in your face.

Their faces can’t find their truths rendered mute by the words they weave. In my prison, they don’t speak but their lips mimic the action.

Black & white, sepia & color.

They exist in all forms. There’s one in every age.

The thing that shakes me to my core when I take in their faces.

They look like mine. Not exactly like mine but they have similar shapes. 

Eyes. Mouth. Nose. Teeth. 

The same but different. 

I can see the monster in me as I do in them. 

Their monstrosity resonating with the stranger in us all. 

I swallow to bile in me, raise my weapon, & let the monsters roll in.

Click.

Sunday Musings: Nostalgia in Nature

Two years ago, I walked to work.

I didn’t live too far from my first job in the real world. It was a store in a small shopping center that provided products that showcased collections and food from around the world. The place had long windows along its entrance wall so the phases of the day were always in full view. 

I walked to and from there not only because it was a short distance and I didn’t have a car but the coming and going were my favorite parts of the workday. I had my ups and downs with this job but it’s the one element I find myself nostalgic for. The waking up and walking there rain or shine. (I actually prefer the rain. My bookworm heart always finds it uplifting).

Now, as the weather turns nice and I can walk without a chill, the nostalgia of these memories is hitting me hard. The sky was an impossible blue this Tuesday, the fresh-cut grass a lush green. And the smell! Even when the allergens make my eyes water, I’ll never stop loving that smell. 

Walking outside is my happy place. My spirit is immediately lifted when I do it. 

Trapped in a Musing

Happy Sunday, everyone!

So here’s a curious observation. I’ve been thinking a lot about stories where you’re trapped in a situation that you can’t really escape from. No obvious reason really. Seemed like great story fodder.

Most of the media I’ve been consuming this last week have dealt with this. I’ve been reading Slaughterhouse 5 which deals with war with equal parts dark humor and weird sci-fi element. The main character is “unstuck” in time so the main character constantly reliving their life. Then there’s Full Metal Jacket which again deals with the concept of war. Vietnam stretched out to over a decade and war just seems like a thing you can’t see an in to when you’re in it. At least, that’s how I often imagine it.

And this whole trapped theme made me think back to one of my older stories of a cast of characters finding themselves trapped in jail. But it’s not a typical jail. This jail makes no logical sense and everything you do to defend yourself just makes you look more guilty to the powers that be. And it’s supposed to be humorous…

But I have to admit, that’s what I like in horror. One of the themes that I enjoy in a horror story is that feeling that there’s no escape to this situation. I think most horror stories have that element to it. Whether it’s a monster, an event, or the people we’re close to. You can’t escape the situation. At least, not without losing something. And that latter concept really intrigues me.

I have to be honest, I never know where these Sunday musings go when they start. I just come up with a first line and go where that takes me. Then I edit. Then I title. Sometimes like the place where I end up. Sometimes I don’t and start over.

Dr. Death and My Morbid Fascination with True Crime Medical Horror

Let me talk about my fascination with medical horror. It’s a bit of a problem making me fretful to pass by a doctor’s office.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a diehard true crime fanatic. I’m fascinated by stories of ordinary people driven to commit monstrous things. Traveling down the rabbit hole of my podcast library will reveal titles like My Favorite Murder, Criminal, Accused, Teacher’s Pet and a whole of horrifying truths of real people who project certain images of themselves out to the world.

It’s a real problem. Something I let haunt my sleeping hours as I lie awake and wonder about the worst impulses of human nature.

dipper lying awake

But strangely… I absolutely love it! And I’m not alone.

But recently, my taste for such tales has wandered into a rather specific genre: medical horror.

I’m not talking about the common trope of mad doctors with bloodlust in their eyes wielding sharp scalpels in slippery fingers as they creep closer to your chest cavity.

(Though not going to lie, those tales are fun too!)

mad doctor_cartoon

No, I’m talking about the real-life kind. You trust medical professionals to do their utmost to make you well. Their guiding principle is to “Do No Harm.” But what if you come out of an operation worst than you did before. The horror of finding yourself convulsing in agony and the doctors and nurses have no idea what’s wrong. Well, all but maybe one or two. And knowing, in the end, they get away with all the trauma they knowingly caused you. They could even do it it to more people because the systems in place to protect you weren’t doing that.

If you all find these topics just as fascinating, I have two recommendations.

dr. death thumbnail

The first is the podcast, Dr. Death. It follows the exploits of Dr. Christopher Duntsch retracing his stint from medical school to his infamous surgical career. Each of his operations left were live butcheries that left most of his patients paralyzed, in chronic pain, or dead. Fair warning, this is not for the faint of heart. The podcast goes into some pretty gruesome details of bone breaking and muscle shredding.

the good nurse

 

The second is a book called The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graebar. The book is a meticulously researched recounting of the life and murder spree of nurse Charles Cullen. A nurse who killed his victims by injecting unprescribed chemicals like digoxin and insulin into patient IV bags. It not only goes over the crimes themselves but delves into the personal life of the man at the center of the narrative. I could hardly put the book down!

 

Do you guys have any more suggestions for similar books, podcasts, TV shows on the same topic? I seriously can’t get enough of these type of stories!

Blood, Ink, and Nightshade

I’m going to pick my brain a moment. Prick it with a pen until it absorbs the ink and makes something beautiful. Blood and black blending into deadly nightshade.

Creativity’s a tricky beast. It haunts you, stalks you, makes you feel. I’ve been lured in by its intoxicating scent for more than a decade now. I can track my life back through all that it inspired me to produce and the tortured things that never got the chance to grow.

Creativity slips away. Or that’s how it feels like sometimes. That’s how it feels now. I call but nothing answers. It doesn’t speak to me how it used to. My mind buzzes with the effort, my fingers go numb with the strain, my eyes drowned by the emptiness in front of me. I’m stalling. I flounder. Nothing works.

But creativity is only lost when you don’t chase after it. It never willingly came to me. It never put in the work to stay. Like a light in the dark, it shines brightly. It warms the room. Gives you comfort. You’re surer in your footing as you walk forward. But it vanishes just as quickly. Forces you to stumble and trip as you claw your way out of the abyss. You have to force yourself forward hoping the light will come to you again.

I hope that this small offering, this bit of effort, will bring it home again.

Photo Credit: elqu @ Wallhaven

Wishful Thinking

Very little is accomplished just through wishful thinking. I wish a lot, inspired by the fairy tales I drank in hungrily from Disney movies and fiction. The notion of simply believing in something hard enough would make everything work out, in the end, was a belief sewn into the fabric of my being. If I wanted my happily ever after I had to believe in it. Like really, really hard!

Of course, now I know that wishful thoughts can only be made a reality through lots of sweat and optimism. If you have a dream, you have to put the effort in. You have to be willing to swallow down failure and learn from it. You also have to accept that failure will be more constant companion than your successes worth all the more.

I’m no stranger to failure. I often wear it like a cloak, bearing down on my shoulders as I make my way through the world. It has a bitter tang and weighs on the heart like a damp towel. Despite these feelings, I do believe in my heart that I am better for them. They make me want more. To do more.

But then there’s wishful thinking. A part of me still clings to the idea of a happily ever after but at the current moment, I have no idea what that looks like. There are so many things I want to do with writing, in particular, but I don’t really know where to start. And so I close my eyes and hope that something works out. But I know it never works that way.

And so I’ll offer up this promise to myself. To stop wishing. To simply do. Knowing that some things won’t work out but other things will. Nothing will be done if I don’t muster up the courage to do it.

Writing With Profundity (Or Lack Thereof)

Oftentimes, when I sit down and (try to) write something, I get hung up on the idea that I have to have something profound to say. That a lot of thought and research has to go into an idea before I’m allowed to say it. 

Do you know the backlog of half-completed ideas I have that get stalled because I felt what I had to say wasn’t important? The hours of research wasted because I couldn’t come up with an “original concept.” How many ideas just became scrawls between notebook and journal pages after getting so hung up on how to carry it out.

My pretentiousness has other ways of manifesting itself. I’m quite humble in my day to day life but I expect my ideas to be great from the get-go. Where I think my brain will automatically do the work of spinning perfection as soon as pen touches paper (or finger hit keys). I find myself so frustrated with the editing process sometimes because my spun gold ends up looking like piles of hay and it’s tough being diligent and dedicated enough to get it close.

And I do know better. I know effort makes a story shine but too much effort–trying to get it perfect before you even begin, is just as much of a story killer. Trust me, this piece took me less than 10 minutes to write. This is just me stringing thoughts together giving no care to how they come across. Okay, that’s not completely but the usual agonizing on whether I have something profound to say didn’t stop me from writing this. And that really shouldn’t be the end goal anyway. Write it if you feel the urge to say it. That is all.

Oh, and as a side note, I’m happy that no one will see the handwritten draft of this. It’s atrocious! It’s messy! But it started this something.

The Sometimes Excruciating Chore of Writing

I’ll admit it. I sometimes hate writing.

I go through frequent periods where nothing seems to go right. I hate the idea. I hate writing it. I hate editing it. I hate the finished product. Nothing seems to go right and I wonder why I’m even bothering.

I think we all go through a cycle of hate when trying to engage with any creative project. I can’t be alone in this right?

I’ll be honest and say that, at the moment, I’m going through an extended rough writing patch. Finishing an idea has been one of the biggest hurdles of the last few weeks. Starting just a smidge easier. (Meaning I’m just about struggling with the entire process, now doesn’t it?).

But if I took anything from 2017, I won’t always feel like writing. Every idea won’t be spun from gold as soon as I decide to dedicate actual words to it. I won’t have one of those moments always depicted on television where the ideas just flow–face aglow with that glorious a-ha as I furiously type. (Heck, that isn’t even me on a good writing day.)

tom hanks gifs
A more accurate representation of my “a-ha” moment

Much of what I wrote last year was me sitting down and forcing myself to get it done. And there were times where I violently loathed every single word that I etched on the page but I continued.

Even when I end up hating a line, a paragraph, a scene, a concept, I can engage in a more proactive hate when its given concrete form. I get a better sense of what I would rather do and can more actively engage with the idea I most fiercely despise.

When something’s an ephemeral concept, it’s harder to challenge it. Your brain is charged with a billion things any given second and it has an annoying tendency to take shortcuts with abstract concepts. You only come away with the idea that something must be a pretty good or pretty bad idea and without action, it’s hard to articulate why or for anyone else to articulate it either.

So write through the hate.