The One Thing Scarier than Halloween

Halloween is a spook-tacular occasion, what with ghosts, goblins and ghouls ringing the doorbell and phantoms roaming the streets. If you’re a writer, what’s even more terrifying than Halloween, is being haunted by your fears.

The 1980 major motion picture, The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, offers a spine-tingling example. Jack Torrance, as portrayed by Nicholson, is an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as an off-season caretaker at a historic hotel. He plans to use the hotel’s solitude to write. Over the course of time, Jack begins behaving strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts. Matters escalate and in one pivotal scene he breaks through a door with an axe. At least some of Jack’s terrifying behavior can be attributed to what he’s spent weeks at the typewriter doing—absolutely nothing. He’s been writing the same sentence over and over: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Jack is suffering from writer’s block, one of the biggest fears among writers. Writers are full of fears that may make them act a little screwy. I think most writers get a little kooky, especially when they begin work on a big project or one they hold dear. I am 150 pages into the first draft of my second novel. I have become fearful, nearly to the point of ridiculousness, that I will somehow lose what I’ve already written. As a result, I keep copies of my draft on my home laptop and work laptop.

I do not take my home laptop out of my home for fear of dropping it or someone breaking into my trunk to steal it or someone stealing my car with the laptop in it. Keep in mind here that I’m much more concerned about the manuscript than the car. I also keep a copy on a flash drive and have printed out a copy that I keep in a secret location in case something happens to both laptops and the flash drive.

So, you see how wacky authors can be? Now maybe, Jack Torrance doesn’t sound so nuts after all, does he? (Well, maybe he still does.)

When it comes to my fears, Halloween barely makes the list. I can take the trick-or-treaters, haunted houses, nightmare-inducing Halloween horror movies, inflatable coffins with vampires springing out of them. But if my manuscript got lost, all five copies of them, including the copy I’m about to wedge between my mattress and box spring, that would be my personal horror show.

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Lisa Braxton

Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. Her debut novel, The Talking Drum, is forthcoming from Inanna Publications in spring 2020. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and a book reviewer for 2040 Review. Her stories and essays have appeared in literary magazines and journals. She received Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest magazine’s 84th and 86th annual writing contests in the inspirational essay category. Her website: www.lisabraxton.com

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