When I was hungry for success, I used to rise at 5.00 am and write for 2 hours straight before getting ready for my paid job. There was no shortage of material. I had a bottomless dark well from which I could draw. The stories flowed. Some contained barely restrained anger; others reflected my deep cynicism about how the world worked. A few seemingly came out of nowhere. An exception to the rule was an award-winning story called Rosa’s Place, which drew on some song lyrics, a chance experience and fairly well-worn tropes.
Every morning without fail.
I used to subscribe to this paperback monthly called Scavenger’s Newsletter. It would list all the small press magazines accepting submissions. I’d pick out the most likely and submit my work. Everything was done by snail mail. The process from submission to rejection or occasional acceptance was treacle-like. Getting published was such a buzz, but the remuneration was barely enough to pay for stamps and paper. The competition was intense. Many well-known writers were ploughing the same fields.
The business model was not sustainable, but I loved writing and hated my job.
There are a lot of ways to earn a crust writing, but your head and heart have to be in them. You can’t bluff your way through.
One of the worst decisions I have made in my writing career was to stop drawing from the dark well and focus on “more profitable” writing channels. I covered the dark well and relied upon my conscious skills to fulfil whatever I thought I was looking for. The last piece I wrote was what felt like the opening chapter of a sci-fi/dark fantasy novel. But I didn’t know what to do with it. It felt like I’d written myself into a dark corner without planning a way out. Other more lucrative writing projects beckoned, and the story was allowed to sit forgotten.
My life took a severe turn for the worse for a while. That usually happens when we forget who we are and try to be someone else. I’m not going to retread that old ground. Been there, done that, moved on. Part of my recovery involved extensively writing about elements of my life that I had suppressed and ignored. The process was cathartic not only because it allowed me to confront my demons but more importantly, it allowed me to tap into that subconscious part of me where the good stuff comes from. Ultimately, that process resulted in my book Postcards From Hell, which I think put a final full stop to what had been a traumatic but necessary period.
One of the things that learned over that period is that we can’t run from who we are. I uncovered the dark well and peered into the depths. Was there anything still there? I didn’t know for sure, but I had to find out.
My old material was dusted off and reread. Some of it seemed better than I remembered. Bits needed to be polished, but there were good stories there -stories that deserve to see the light of day. I got excited. That piece that felt like the beginning of a novel has been reprised, and I’m now eight chapters in and drawing from the dark well daily.
So the plan for the coming year is simple –
1/Release the best of my stories in collections of short stories, Dark Weird Stuff due out on January 6, 2023, and – Dark Byways of Possibility which will be released as an eBook only two weeks later.
2/ Finish this novel that has a working title of Elsewhere
3/ Find whatever else is waiting to be drawn from my dark well.
It feels like I’ve come home.
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