In an effort to improve my writing prowess, I recently began to think of creative springboards: exercises to fuel my creativity which I could write about and post on this blog, which is, in itself an attempt to become better at my beloved craft.
One of the subjects that came to mind was a "Why I Write What I Write" exercise, but to author it in the style of a writer whose work I admire. This is not an exercise that I intend to employ as a means of imitating or copying the style of another writer, but one that will hopefully teach me to look for, find and use my own voice, even when I am engaged in writing a Cthulhu Mythos piece in the Lovecraftian vein (which I have planned to do in the near future).
Someone once gave me a book of Lovecraft stories. I no longer remember who presented me with that awesome gift of reading pleasure or what the title of the book was. That information no longer matters. Keys are small things by themselves. But when you turn them, you can open doors into fascinating hidden rooms or ignite engines of great power and complexity.
All I know is, the opening paragraph of one of the first stories I encountered grabbed me and held me spellbound and it does so still to this day. It sealed my fate in an overpowering desire to write. It is from a story called "Dagon":
I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below. Do not think from my slavery to morphine that I am a weakling or a degenerate. When you have read these hastily scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must have forgetfulness or death...
H.P. Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. His first published story was called "The Alchemist" and it was published in 1916 in a magazine called "The United Amateur."
Without further explanations, here is my Lovecraft inspired look into my inner madwoman, an apologia of why I write, and why I write what I write:
The Shadow of Creativity: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Mostly
My friends are convinced that I am insane. They are probably right.
Mental balance and I achieved a stubborn stalemate many years ago after decades of ceaseless turmoil and foul warfare. Any measure of normal psychological stability now keeps a well-defined and uneasy, if not peaceful distance from me.
I’m a writer of speculative fiction and I know of no better habitation than the dark recesses of my own fetid imagination. My vistas are oblique, non-Euclidean and terrifying realms of stark raving chaos where strange and often horrifying things dwell in Fortean splendor.
The faces I prefer do not have striking jaw-lines or piercing blue eyes. Instead, I am drawn in a state of near catatonia to visages sporting tentacled chins and piercing fore-claws. Eyes? Just a singular, Cyclopean horror of unblinking, hypnotic skill is enough to send me into a frenzy of terrible shuddering and provoke uncountable sleepless nights. Whenever I do manage to heed the call of Morpheus to "Come, come" my sleep is troubled and oppressed by these maddening visions. I must then get up and write.
My tormented brain chants a continual mantra: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, steam-punk, alternate history, future history, cyberpunk, space opera, scientific romance…mmmm…zombies…alien shape-shifting serial killer spider…Cthulhu mythos….
Like a trapped mink, I'm stuck in the cruelly sharp steel jaws of my own design. Writing is a sweet, albeit temporary, release from the madness, the equivalent of chewing off a foot and limp-running headlong, blindly into the arms of reckless abandon. The Trapper's name is Sanity and I am determined he shall not have my skin!
There are (no doubt) writers whose works are sunshiny blossoms of spring days, all romance and straightforwardness, where there's no mistaking the authors intentions regarding character, setting or plot.
Comparing writing with painting, these writers would rack up with Claude Monet and his Water Lilies. Edgar Degas and his Ballerinas.
My writing is none of that easily definable stuff.
My work is Van Gogh, who, though he painted some pretty sunflowers, he also painted swirling cosmos skies and cut off part of his own ear to embrace his inner madness.
My writing is Jackson Pollock. I desire to chuck many of those elements of my mental mantra onto the page, grab a palette knife and start cutting in, the ink flowing from my fingertips to the keyboard to the blank screen, the chaos taking on form and finally, meaning.
In comparing my work with other speculative fiction authors, my earliest recollections find me contemplating the experiences of being absorbed in the macabre murkiness of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and a starkly surreal and sometimes hellish poem that I often still to this very day find myself reciting snippets of without being cognizant of it called "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Then, I found my uncle's sci-fi collection and visited Niven's "Ringworld," became too confused at too early an age by Heinlein's "Stranger In a Strange Land" (but not in too bad a way) and discovered even more treasures at my school and local library.
All of these inspirations are what have fueled my intense longing to create strange phenomena, alien landscapes and slimy vistas of darkness so foul and inhabited by denizens so terrifyingly bizarre as to induce nightmares just by reading about them.
That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.
Yes, my friends, I am insane. But it's okay.
I am a writer. I can live no other way.
Dedicated to H.P. and to the author who is the source of my writer's "Quote of the Week" for this blog this week, E.L. Doctorow, who said: "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."
To listen to a truly creepy audio version of "Dagon" visit "The Drabblecast." Clicking this link will take you directly to the site. "The Drabblecast" is a weekly short fiction podcast. The stories there are mostly narrated by the extremely talented and creepy voice of Norm Sherman.