Zen and the Art of Scaring the Crap out of Myself

Zen and the Art of Scaring the Crap out of Myself

I stare at the blank screen. I am trying not to hate the cursor when it blinks its endless metronome, but it’s laughing at me, I can feel it. My fingers flex, stabbing words across the keyboard, but I quickly scowl, highlight, delete. Then I stare at the empty screen some more. I’m trying to write horror, cursed with a cheerful mood.

It’s my own fault. I’ve been eating healthier, exercising, getting an early start on the day. I’ve even taken to cleaning up around the house, just to keep my workspace nice and organized. It’s like a little morning ritual, a meditation, a prayer to the fickle muse in my brain.

And now it’s double-crossed me. I am happy, energized and confident. How nauseatingly wonderful.

What to do? The characters are surrounded by a darkness full of gibbering terrors and eldritch nightmares. They must stumble on, fight to survive with nothing but pluck and the beam of a failing flashlight. Some of them will die. Horribly. In ways sure to be emotionally wrenching.

And I just can’t get my head into it. Instead I'm sitting in my tidy apartment, hoping for a bought of crushing depression. Or at least a little helpful dread.

I could junk it, move to a different part of the book, one with sunshine and daisies and characters who are not in their last throes. But I’m stubborn. And I want to write this scene, damnit!

So I go trolling for a scare. I pop open a web browser, type in "horror stories,” and scan the results. I click for variety, land on a “best of” thread on Reddit.

Two hours later and I’m jumping at shadows. There’s a tingle in my stomach, like I’m no longer alone in the apartment. I resist the impulse to investigate that breath of noise in the bathroom, or that thump from the kitchen. I am creeped, down to my marrow (to the point I will have night terrors this evening, featuring certain characters from a spectacularly unsettling film who, for arcane reasons, have taken up residence on our balcony)…

…but I write the scene. It flows out of me, dancing, easy. It will take editing, lots and lots of editing, but the skeleton has been laid, ready for fleshing, so to speak. The cursor blinks in stunned silence, several thousand words from where it was.

Well, that’s enough creeping myself out. Perhaps I should do some housework, something mindless and distracting and meditative. Oooooh! Dirty dishes!