What does it mean if I’m a writer? What does it mean if I write horror? I could blame the wool suit, and now momentum. I can say I have no choice. The stories and the urge to tell them is etched so deep into my bones that it’s sunk into the marrow. You write what you know and I know horror. Stephen King was practically a surrogate parent growing up. He provided no nutrition or comfort or support to me, although the last is not true, I hang on every word he writes to Constant Reader, because that’s me, and his encouragement to take the monsters from under the bed and haul them into the light has always been apparent. He always encourages writers to just write. I know this because I’ve read On Writing many times over.
The problem is, our world needs no more horror right now. Our country is more racially divided than ever, our upcoming election has people actually scared, and we seem to be living something straight outta 1984 two decades late. Better never than late. Poverty and homelessness a serious struggle, we are flooded with news about terror attacks and mass shootings. I’m hyper aware of what I’m putting out into the world. My stories aren’t often cheerful. Good, happy endings don’t often come to me and I’m a writer with integrity. I wont force a story into a shape it doesn’t belong in.
So how am I contributing to the greater good? I don’t think I can live a life that isn’t about helping others. Following a passion I love isn’t enough, I need to be doing good work. I know what I do for a living doesn’t define me, but it does. The only career I previously had was my definition of self. That’s part of the reason I left. You have to understand, I was a teacher. My whole life was about giving. I worked in a very low income, high crime school and over ten years I probably influenced the lives of 1,000 students. There you have it. A straightforward impact. I was good, too. I had their backs. I created a safe classroom. I constantly surprised them with my acceptance of them and respect for them. I’ve been told many times I’m the reason someone graduated. I had one student tell me that because of his involvement in the play I directed, he didn’t kill himself. I’ve had students tell me my class was fun and students tell me it was wack. (Yes, oh my, they sometimes still say wack.) I’ve been cussed out and written so many write ups, failed quite a few kiddos, had some kids skip my class every single day. There’s my proof I provided rigor and boundaries, I wasn’t their friend, I was their ally whether they liked it or not. My job was to help them become healthy, happy adults. I shared art and ways of thinking and ways of caring and using self expression to make their lives better. I built a school garden and taught them about healthy eating, I collaborated with amazing community groups, supported my colleagues, and cried insanely every year at graduation.
Now I write. And if my writing ever gets out into the world, if it ever touches any one or matters to them, I’ll never see it. I’ll never see that moment. I got to see those moments all the time in the classroom. But that’s selfish. If I was writing some uplifting life changing…something and it helped some people I wouldn’t care about that. How can my writing horror stories matter? Yes, I think the writing is good enough to provide enjoyment but so what?
Defiance is rising in me as I remember why I read about laundry machines that come to life and the all the multiverses that live right next door and we only need to carve a key and open a door and we are somewhere else, and long live the dire wolves and, oh I’m sorry. I got a little lost. I get lost, far away from reality, which I sometimes can’t stand. I love most the fantastical stories hat remind me nothing of my life. Sure, sometimes lessons of character and perspective and trial slip into application in the real world, and I’m bettered by that, but the escape into books is therapy, a safe place, a respite. Thanks to King, I became a strong reader, writer, learned vocabulary, mood imagery.
There’s also the reason I love the lyrics of Mike Doughty, and Third Eye Blind, and why I think Nos4a2 is a perfect novel and why the short story written by meant everything to me. They were written truthfully. I don’t read nonfiction, there’s too many lies. Even when I write my own memoir, its rife with it. Fiction is where I write my truth, with much effort. At least, I’m sharpening, honing, hoping to one day achieve truth in what I write.
In the mean time, writing is how I exorcise my demons. Some may have been released today.
There was also the Facebook PM conversation I had with a former student trying to break into the music business. He thanked me for always believing in him and I continued to urge him forward. I believe art creating and sharing, is our way to a better world, so here I am being an example to my students to go for what they really want, too. See? I’m not all talk.
Is it true? Well, let me get there and we will see.