Confessions Of A Horror Writing Mummy

#3

This confession should have been let out a long time ago. Right now it seems that I’m employing old techniques of procrastination to try to get out of writing it. I’m hungry, get a snack, sit down. I’m thirsty, get up. I better check my emails, get up. I’m still hungry … It just keeps going on and on … well not today.

It’s hard being a person. Being a writer on top of that doesn’t make it any easier. To me it doesn’t make it harder, it just seems to get a little more complicated sometimes. I’ve said before that life can get in the way. And I suddenly realise that there are aspects of my life that need to be shared. I almost gave up on my dream—the dream of becoming a writer. It stayed with me through a lot of heartache and sorrow but there were days that if one more thing went wrong I could have easily given up.

So where do I begin?

I begin by saying that, hopefully for those of us who may not know one another, but have shared this experience, you are not alone. Giving up on writing, or any other dream you have, can have devastating consequences. So don’t give up.

I’m stalling.

After completing my diploma of professional writing and editing, (which by the way wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been) my dear mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was the woman who pushed me along in my dream of becoming a writer. She looked after the children while I was studying. I still think that her begging me not to quit was a ruse so she could spoil the grandkids even more.

Watching my mother through the highs and lows of her battle with this cancer didn’t put my writing on hold, I did write, but not for publication. I couldn’t concentrate long enough or I was too emotionally drained and had a tendency to fall asleep as soon as I sat down.

On the good days she would ring and ask me to take her shopping, something that used to give her pleasure. I kind of missed the days where she would always be leaving me behind. She was such a fast little walker. Now it seemed I was leaving her behind.

Watching my mother shrivel into a woman who was more concerned about how everyone else was feeling really broke my heart. She had always been strong, and vibrant. Now she slept most of the day and could hardly eat.

There was a time when anger fortified itself inside my mind. The treatment that was keeping her from being strangled by her cancer was killing her. For three years until her final fight there were a few times we were rushed to the hospital to say goodbye. She fought bravely, right up till the end.

We had many conversations while we were together in the hospital ward on our own. Some good, some bad and some were embarrassing. I already know what makes a man, my man, happy in the bedroom thank you very much mother.

But the one discussion we had, which was odd because at the time the infection she caught had made its way to her brain causing a lot of damage, was clear and aimed at me and no one else. She started telling me off for not bringing in my writing pad and pen. I told her that I hadn’t written anything in three weeks.

I didn’t tell her that it was because I was juggling the children and her, of course. She told me that she was sad because she forgot what her dream had been. She stopped everything because she had me when she was eighteen. Then she had two more children and decided to try to be the best mum she could be.

That one statement: I forgot my dream, really honed in the sacrifice my mother made in her life to ensure her children were happy. She was happy but there were days I could tell there was something missing. She told me not to make the same mistake. Having children wasn’t the mistake, she reminded me. It’s not doing everything in your power to get what you want out of life.

Three weeks after that conversation she passed away.

I wish I was a drinker; a wine would be great right now.

It was if she was reading my mind. I was going to give up on writing. It probably would have driven me nuts, but hey, life would have been less stressful.

My mother is in a much better place. Watching her die over three years was gruelling. My grief was mixed with confusion because I was happy that she was gone, because she’s not suffering any more. A couple of days after the funeral I was writing whether I wanted to or not. Clarity came a knockin’.

It’s funny. Now when I feel like giving up I think of my mum and suddenly I feel like her foot is kicking my butt. And to push the fact that she is still around and thinking of me, the first anniversary of her death fell on Friday the 13th. So what kind of mother would I be if I told my children that if something was too hard just give up?

Thanks Mum for being a great role model.

Through this heartache and release of grief I have gained a lot of character insight and not just for my writing.

I have experience.

I have grown.

No doubt life will throw another spanner at my head, but if I fall, I will rise again and again and again.
I hope that you can turn your troubles, stresses and grief into something positive—a challenge, an experience, a moment to express oneself. It’s hard. I know.

Now that I’ve shared, had my fair share of new tears, felt like a fool for crying and being relieved of some of the angst, I feel surprisingly uplifted. Sharing is something that helps lift the burden of life. As for writing, life fuels what goes inside the story. Overcome and you will feel better about yourself.

SO, never ever, ever give up on something you love. I know I can’t, otherwise my mother will descend from heaven and slap the back of my head for all eternity or until I pick up a pen.

Confess you later,

EJ

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Confessions of a Horror Writing Mummy

#2
Finding Inspiration:

Using real life to find ways of killing characters:

Come on. We’ve all thought it about someone. Someone who grates on our nerves. A rival who gets up your nose whenever they get the chance. A horrible boss you wish would have a heart attack already. That not so nice motorbike rider who just clipped your mirror while slipping illegally through the traffic jam. Or the dreaded ex. How many of you secretly hope that they get hit by a truck? I have a friend who prays that her ex gets hit by a truck, any truck or hopefully a bus. And if God likes her enough, the ex will not only be run over by a truck, but the bus as well, one after the other, ka thud-ka thud.

Most people I deal with at work are pleasant. But there are those troublesome few who think it’s their God-given right to give me attitude for something that is their fault, not mine. I’ve been sworn at when I say we can’t help them; been called many rude names when all I’ve asked is if they have a copy of the receipt so I can look them up in our files; then there’s the sexism. “I don’t want to talk to you because you’re a woman.” But I’m the one who books you in. Sexism comes at me from both sexes. “You’re just the secretary, put me onto someone who can help me book the technician in to fix my …” THAT WOULD BE ME! Aaarrrgghh.

When I hear these people I instantly want to assert some telekinetic mind exploding blast down the telephone line. But wait, that’s been done before. Scanners, where are you now? I will get even and write horrible deaths for character with them in mind. Mwuh-huh-huhhhhhh.

So let’s take a look at how the stuck in a traffic jam scenario plays out in my head. I’ve got all the time in the world to conjure, to feed my imagination. Most of us have been stuck in a traffic jam, cursing, cussing, annoyed, angry and frustrated, so fellow writers use those emotions!

A jerk in a big ol’ 4WD, without indicating, has decided that the little gap you left in front of you is big enough to squeeze into. Then he flips you the bird. Then as your nerves settle you hear a small bang and a guy on a motor bike has not only knocked your side mirror but smashed it, broke it and he doesn’t stop until he realises he is stuck further up ahead.

There’s a bridge up ahead and you hear wheels screeching. You spy the white smoke and watch as the rear end accident unfolds. So here’s the bit that’s fiction. Sure I could have the car that was rear ended careen off the bridge and land flat on the motor bike guy. But to me that sounds too bland, too quick. So how about it being a truck? A tanker? But I don’t want it carrying something toxic, or explosive, or a biohazard that would doom all of mankind and turn everyone into zombies, that would be too easy. Let’s say, for my imagination’s sake, that the tanker is carrying milk.

Now we’re thinking outside the box.

So the motor bike rider sees the truck falling towards him, he can only reverse up. There’s not enough room between the two cars beside him to even move his legs to get off the bike. He ducks and … is saved by the other two cars, but there’s a problem … We’ll come back to him in a moment.

The truck flips and the top curved corner hits the roof of the 4WD and the roof caves in and the sunroof falls out. Pop! Right on top of the guy’s head. He tries to get out of his vehicle but his seatbelt won’t budge. (Clichéd, I know) but the reason it’s not working is because he broke it and was on his way to having it fixed. There’s a hole in the corner of the milk tank. The milk gushes in at such a rate that … He can open the door you say, a window? Not if there is no handle to wind it down and the door won’t open because of the collapsed roof.

So the driver of the 4WD drowns in something that is good for you. What would happen if he was allergic to milk products … ahhh the possibilities. (I’m so evil it’s scary.)

The motor biker, what about him?

The driver of one of the cars that saved him from being crushed has fainted. His or her foot has slipped on the accelerator. The truck stuck on top slides and the car is tilted onto its side. The car’s wheels whir furiously. The bike shifts beneath him and he falls. The truck slides a little and the car moves back towards the motor cyclist. The spinning tyre … and … basically, like a wood sander, strips everything off from his clothes to the flesh to the muscle to the bone. Then the car finishes falling and lands on top of him.

The traffic’s moving. Inspiration, thinking outside the box, is what writers must do to make their stories come alive.

So I have a very evil imagination.

I confess, that without it, I would be just like everyone else. I don’t want that. Anyway, thinking up horrible ways of killing characters by using real life keeps me from cracking under the pressure. I’m a sweet person. I’ll do anything to help anyone out. But to all those horrible people who make life insufferable die, die, die already and don’t ever drive behind a milk truck.

Confess you later,

EJ

Confessions of a Horror Writing Mummy

IMG_20130401_134314 clock image

#1

I’m not saying that I’m wrapped up in various strips of material. It has been said, numerous times, that I should be wrapped up in cotton wool. Yes. Those people may be right. After all I’m accident prone. This post isn’t about me falling over, having a roasting chicken spit at me or just walking into furniture. This post is long overdue. It’s about juggling motherhood, work and my aspiring career as a writer.

A fellow writer asked me, where do you find the time to write?

I didn’t mean to make them screw up their faces like they had just eaten the world’s largest sour warhead candy when I said: I just do.

And while I’ve been blunt with those who tell me they didn’t have the time to write, but they’ve just told me the story outline and plot of all the soapies (is that what you call them?) they’ve been watching the entire week, month, year. I believe that one can make time if one is truly passionate about writing.

So how do I find the time?

To me time isn’t an issue. I would like more of it. I squeeze my writing in wherever I can. Between phone calls and housework, (I work as a receptionist and book keeper from home) and I have to admit it’s a pain in the tanooki. Whenever the phone rings I lose my train of thought. I may not be able to focus on novel length manuscripts at the moment but I’m getting a few more short stories written. Some days I’m lucky and the phone stays quiet for a couple of hours, but those days don’t happen very often. And although I work from home, the television is always switched off. The only time it comes on is if I’m having a day off writing, but then it’s only on while I eat lunch. Instead of flicking the picture box on, sit down and write something to help you unwind.

My time is taken up with all the other aspects of life, like my kid’s soccer practice. I’m sitting in my car, writing, (this post actually.) I have an hour of quiet time. Something I’m finding rarer every day. Maybe I should get someone to wrap me up in cotton wool. I’ve even been known to dabble with ideas or reading my work aloud while waiting in the school car park. I think that’s why some parents avoid me at times. What’s that crazy woman doing talking to nobody!

Like I care what they think.

There is one drawback to finding ideas in the school car park. I’m always interrupted by the bell—especially in the middle of a juicy part. Although I sometimes dabble if the children permit me, three thirty to six thirty is their time: to annoy me, love me, ask for help with their homework, hate me because they need to clean their rooms. I’m such a terrible mother—not. There are times, on the weekend, when I think they have super hearing and for some reason as soon as they hear me typing they equate that with their stomachs and become a ravenous hoard of (two) zombies that are just doing my head in because they are old enough to make their own sandwiches. I still love them unconditionally.

As a writer you must read and here’s the embarrassing aspect of my writing life. The only chance I get to read is on the toilet. Why? Because no one is game enough to interrupt me. My reading time can last a couple of minutes to sometimes ten. At least it’s uninterrupted time until the husband asks me if I’ve drowned in there. Sometimes I get innovative and read when my children need to read for homework. It may only last for ten or twenty minutes but it’s a good quiet time to catch up or try and finish that long chapter.

If I want to work on my novel I have to wait until the kids and husband go to bed. Sometimes I get lucky and the husband goes to bed early. Let me guess, you were thinking of something else when I said I sometimes get lucky. Weren’t you? Come on admit it. If he doesn’t go to bed early that’s fine because I’ve trained myself to work with noise. You know, the television, the husband yelling at it if his football team isn’t winning or he’s flicking through three of my favourite TV shows. I actually love sports. It gives me more time to delve into my passion. I may stay up a little longer, but usually my eyeballs are hanging out of my head by ten thirty. Writing drafts are done at night but editing can be done between phone calls, even if it is one page at a time.

My head isn’t clear or able to function first thing in the morning, so there isn’t a need (for now) to get up earlier. I’ve thought about it. But you have to know your limits. No point writing if your brain is too tired. There are days when I don’t write. It doesn’t mean that I’m not working. In my head that is. And there are times when I do sometimes take a little ten minute nanny nap (one of the few benefits of working from home) between phone calls and/or after finishing a draft of a story.

So finding time, like in the good old days when I used to work for someone else, I used to sit outside in the warmer months and write for twenty minutes. I truly believe in the cliché of I wish I knew then what I now know. I would’ve written more, but then again I wouldn’t have the experience of being who I am right now.

Finding time can be tricky, but even if you only find ten minutes, make it count. It’s what you do with those ten minutes that really matters. Ten minutes of focused writing time will let me do a plot outline, a brief character study, one that I can expand on later, I can write 100-200 words and it can allow me to do research.

Some of my fellow workshoppers hate me for being productive and bringing in work every meeting. I do it because I don’t want to be answering phones all my life until I retire. I started writing in my thirties. In the time between realising my dream and now being in a position of knowing exactly what I want, I’ve had a lot of emotional ups and downs. I will be confessing about those too! They are important. Each knockback has made me stronger. Each of them has given me inspirational thoughts and epiphanies.

So use your time wisely.

And of course come back to the Writing Confessions of a Horror Writing Mummy where I will be confessing on how I find inspiration for killing off my characters.

Confess you later,

EJ