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Writing Your Demons and Devouring Mental Illness

Stories circulate in my head on a constant basis. Reeling them in and trying to get them into neat little boxes that eventually intertwine and could possibly become something interesting and cohesive is an entirely different matter. So I keep either a notebook or an electronic version of a notebook with me at all times. I write down ideas, thoughts, weird things I've seen and wait for the magic to begin.

My son and I have recently begun watching the X-Files from the beginning and I realized a few elements of the show had wound up in my stories. Weird. I love the way the brain works. I love that human memories can take a dozen different experiences, warp them all together into one gigantic blob and put them in our frontal cortex where we would swear this really happened. Nothing explains this clearer to me than looking back at old X-Files episodes and realizing that's where this fit in. Or raising children and hearing their version of a childhood memory.

Everything gets stored in the brain. All those inane experiences that we shrug off are sitting in the three pound, synaptic firing, vision inducing hunk of meat screaming to be let out. Whether it is in a verbal backlash or in a new story. I prefer the story. I can take all experiences, good, bad, or indifferent and release them upon unsuspecting characters to see what happens next. I love that feeling. It is so cathartic to fight your demons on paper and let your characters sort out the aftermath. Because, let's face it, as writers that is what we do. We fight our demons on a daily basis whether we think we do or not. At least, we do if we are any good. That's how we make sense of the world. That's how we figure out why bad things happen. And that's where we try and get a grasp on our demons. I also believe it keeps us sane. More sane than the regular population. As a group of people, horror writers purge their inner thoughts, they vomit their greatest fears, and they defecate their emotions on paper.

We can take an abusive childhood and turn it into the next zombie apocalypse where the parents get devoured one piece at a time. Or we can take depression and create a survival story of being trapped in a blizzard, surrounded by hungry bears and getting out alive. We may not realize it at the time in the throes of writing, but we are killing the childhood bullies, the beasts, and the monsters with every stroke of the pen. And with any luck you gain an audience. And a few royalties.

So yeah, we may be a little weird and we definitely see the world in a way most of the population doesn't, but we also understand human nature a lot more clearly than most. Because living in our heads we have to understand the demon in order to defeat it.

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