Don’t Blink

In case you didn’t know, I’m moving to a new house — so, in the middle of packing up one house and cramming the stuff into a new one, I’m both a) busy and b) possibly without consistent Internet access. Which means it’s time for some guest bloggers to step up to the plate.

Final piece of the puzzle comes from the king of the Fragments of Shadow, Christopher Simmons who sometimes writes so elegantly it’ll make your heart spin in your chest. Need proof, just click.

So I went into this wanting to write something to continue the tradition of showing why we can’t have nice things every time he lets us blogsit. But I can’t do it. I don’t have the intestinal fortitude required to write something more vulgar than Chuck, and I’m just not a very funny person. So here we are.

And that’s precisely what I’m going to write about. Flinching. Here’s what I started:

The grease paint was the worst part. It got everywhere, in every nook and cranny. I’d scratch myself a few days after a shoot and my hand would come back with blue or white under the nails.

You’d think it would be more fun to be Horny the clown, but let me tell you, it was hell.

Making those movies took a lot out of me. Getting that red liquid latex off the tip of Lil’ Horndog was…

Now, see, that’s where I get stuck. Horny the clown grosses me out, and I flinch. I look away from the story. I don’t know if it’s a matter of self-confidence or self-discipline, but I fail.

Sometimes It’s OK to Look Away

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you should look away. It’s important to stare intently, but sometimes, it’s too much. Or it’s not right. Seriously, does anyone even want to read a story about Horny the Clown? And am I really the person to unleash that fresh hell upon you? I doubt it. Chuck (Wendig or Palahniuk – is there something about the name “Chuck” that creates a certain mindset?) could make it awesome if he didn’t hate clowns so much.

If the idea isn’t right, or at any rate, isn’t right for you, by all means, drop the keyboard on the ground and step away. Hunt for some other, more appetizing prey or climb another mountain or whatever metaphor gets you through the day.

Commitment Issues

There are some things we maybe shouldn’t write about. This isn’t about censorship, but there are things, different for each of us, that are verboten. Some people can’t deal with horror that involves children. For some it’s rape, or depression. We all have our buttons. But if you choose to chase that dragon, follow through. Wishy-washy language, avoiding the dirty or uncomfortable parts of the story, that shit shines like a beacon to readers. Caitlín R. Kiernan wrote a very disturbing story about necrophiliacs called “San Andreas,” years ago. She told a panel at Dragon*Con that the story kept her up at night. She felt dirty writing about the characters involved. But she showed it all, every disturbing facet of what they did, and created a story that still squicks me out to this day.

She harnessed her own feelings of distaste and horror and channeled them, transmuted them into a form the reader could feel lurking behind the words. It can be therapeutic to delve into your issues and pin them, bleeding, on the page. And often, those stories are the most powerful. Would Gregory House be such a captivating character if Hugh Laurie didn’t have his own demons of depression to draw on? Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark? This is “write what you know” in the realest sense. Your passions, your fears, are the truest thing you can put on the page.

So don’t look away.


  • Succinct. Reminds me of the poker belief that if you’re not going to go all in, don’t play the hand. You mention House and Stark, and I totally agree. In Robert Downey, Jr.’s case, being true to his inner demons has seemed to offer him some pretty grand redemption. Huge Laurie is simply a thespian god—he’s a performer in the truest sense.

    Therapeutic writing (as I have some experience with that) is only useful if you do go all in, get dirty and real with yourself. That’s when it moves from something which is just an exercise to something that is profound.


  • Going down deep is painful, and everytime I do it, it feels like I don’t have the ability to convey what I am tapping. Maybe my skill is lacking. Maybe I just can’t let go of how personal they are. Or maybe I just don’t feel anything – these are all reactions I’ve had to “method” writing. I just feel like I never do it justice.

    That’s not to say I don’t try.

    I don’t have a problem with flinching so much as the gut-deep worry I think every writer feels: is this interesting? Will anyone give a shit? I don’t write for myself. I write to share and to entertain, and if possible, toss a little thought out there. I’m no Hemingway or Keats or any other names pretentious people like to spout – at best, I’ll have some half-naked chicks on the covers of my 10-buck paperbacks and a little picture of me trying to look more intelligent than I am. I guess my main flinch isn’t from the disturbing nature of what I can dig up, it’s an the portrayal of it.

    Thanks for the read, Chris!

  • Of course, mine gets posted the day t-shirts explode out of the screen print shop’s anus like it had a bad burrito. Even the cushy web designer in his air-conditioned tower has to go back into the nasty, sweaty warehouse and fold shit. So I’ll try and be around when I can get a break, but good lord, does anyone actually need that many neon blue shirts?

    Thanks, guys.

    Keith – It’s definitely true when you’re writing for therapy. If you don’t dig and do the work, it’s just not going to have any value for that purpose. I think it’s important in normal works simply because if you shy away from the subject matter, it’s going to read as inauthentic. If you can’t stare into the face of your creation, if you can’t follow it all the way to the arctic circle, how can you expect anyone else to?

    Rick – In my experience, if I doubt my work, everyone else will think it’s awesome. If I think it’s gold, something’s wrong. :P

    Chuck – Thanks for the kind words, and for letting me take up space on your bloggedy while you’re getting moved. Here’s hoping you stir up some interesting spirits in the new place, and they tell you some new stories.

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