The Feeling of Sonder

SonderThe profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.

I feel like everyone is a little self centered.

Now, I don’t mean selfish. Selfish in my mind means lacking empathy toward the people around you. Self centered on the other hand means that you think of life as a story in which you are the main character, which is fine. I feel like if we spent all our time thinking about the big picture and how we’re just minor characters in a big chaotic story that has absolutely no direction, we’d all be in bed having an existential panic attack 24/7.

It’s okay to be self centered. That just means that once in awhile you’ll experience sonder.

According to Wikipedia, sonder was a word created in 2012 as part of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. I absolutely love this word because it’s definitely weird to think about how other people, people who have nothing to do with me, have lives just as fantastic and weird as mine. To them, the story is about them and that is just bizarre to think about.

There is a teenage boy who rides the bus right around the same time I do and he recently discovered Stephen King. He’s reading the Green Mile and we got to talking about King after he noticed that I was reading the Long Walk. I see him all the time, but never ask him about anything other than his current book. I sometimes think about him when I’m at home sorting through my bookshelf. Has he read this book? Does he like this author? Things like that.

Another familiar stranger in my life is a man and his four or five year old son. They will sometimes ride the bus with me in the mornings and they always stick out to me because of how cute the boy is. He always says goodbye to the bus driver and he loves to pull the cord when it’s time for them to get off the bus. Sometimes I think about them. Will the boy be going to school soon? Where does his dad work?

I know that I’m a familiar stranger in their lives, too. One day, I wore contacts to work and the little boy pointed it and told me I looked very nice. Another day, I stood up on the bus before it came to a complete stop and the little boy told me we weren’t supposed to stand up while the bus was moving. I sat back down immediately. When a little kid tells you you’re breaking a rule, you don’t argue.

It’s encounters like that that get me thinking about all the different versions of me out there in the world. Like you said, Daniel, there are people out there who remember us and probably wonder where we went when we leave. Those little kids at Big Al’s will always remember you as Dan the Man and nothing else. The woman at Petco will always remember you as Kyuzo’s dad. And, because of their memories, those versions of you will always exist, despite the fact you’ve moved on.

There are so many versions of each of us out in the world. It’s crazy to think about.

A few years ago I made the mistake of having a few too many beers at a bar and got sick in the parking lot. It’s very likely a stranger saw me and now I exist in that person’s mind as that drunk, party girl. They might never see me again, but a version of me lives on in their mind. Hell, I might even be an anecdote they share when the topic of alcohol comes up in conversation, despite the fact that I’m really not a party person at all. 

But I am in their mind.

Another example would be my third grade teacher, Mrs. McCoy. She knew me for an entire school year so, of course, she got to know me a little better than the stranger in the bar parking lot. However, after I left her class, that version of me became stuck in her mind. Somewhere out there in the world, there is a woman who only knows me as a little seven year old girl who likes to read and doesn’t speak up a lot in class. If she met me now, heard how much I swear and saw all my tattoos, it might blow her mind.

It would also kill the version of me that lives in her mind. Kind of morbid to think about, right?

There must me hundreds of thousands of versions of me out there, living in people’s memories. Someone saw me slip on ice and now an incredibly clutsy version of me exists. Someone saw me crying on the bus and now a very sad, helpless version of me exists. Someone saw me out for a run and now an athletic version of me exists.

It’s bizarre to think about, isn’t it?

-EMS

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I’m Never Prepared

Dude, I feel like I’m never prepared to write for SDoS. No matter how well I plan out my week, I always end up writing my post during my lunch break at work, struggling to brainstorm a topic in between my meetings and work projects. Logically, I know that if I just take a few hours to brainstorm and outline my thoughts, my SDoS posts would be so much better, but it’s hard sometimes to find the motivation to put a lot of effort into something when I’m not feeling particularly inspired.

I think that’s the root of my problem. I think I’m in the same place that you are, Daniel. I’ve run out of ideas and it’s hard to find more things to write about when all I do is work, crochet, and chill at home. I’ve written about all of those things. I need something new.

Earlier this week you asked me to teach you how to be inspired and I jokingly said you need to stand on your head and drink kombucha, neither of which I will willingly do. But the more I think about it, the more I like the analogy. Finding inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha: physically tasking and not appealing at all.

A lot of people seem to think that I’m a creative or inspired person, but in reality I rarely feel “inspired” anymore. Yes, I crochet and I write and I sometimes craft things, but in reality all of the things I create don’t magically appear, conjured by a flash of magic inspiration. In reality, I crochet things I see on Pinterest, write things based on parameters given to me by my boss or a writing prompt, and make things to fill a need in my life rather than to satisfy a whim.

My creativity isn’t spontaneous, romantic thing that sweeps me off my feet, it’s more like a task on a to do list that takes time and energy.

Inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha. You’ve got to take some time and get yourself into a headstand and then you have to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do, like drink gross kombucha or write a bunch of garbage until something wonderful happens.

There’s a quote from Stephen King that always comes to mind when I finally force myself to sit down and write my SDoS post:  “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Sometimes I wish Stephen King could just follow me around, poking me with a ruler and reminding me over and over that if I want to write I just have to sit down and do it. Don’t loggy gag, don’t sit around and use the “I don’t have any ideas” excuse.

Obviously this post is more a reminder for me than it is for you, Daniel. You are a very inspired person and just listening to the way you talk about the blogs and your roleplaying campaigns, I know that you’re a way better writer than me. I really should be asking you to teach me to be inspired, not the other way around.

I guess I’ll end this post with another reminder to myself and any other writers out there on the internet who stumble upon this post. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is, what matters is you wrote something.

Writing is like going for a run. It doesn’t matter how fast you go or how long you run for, what matters is that you went for a run. Same goes for writing. I hated my last three SDoS posts and my last two WMR posts, but at least I sat down and wrote them.

-EMS

 

You Don’t Know My Life

This post is going up late because, as you know Daniel, I’m on vacation. I’m down in Vancouver for Thanksgiving and since I arrived I have literally spent every evening drinking and hanging out with family. You reminded me about my post yesterday and I completely forgot until about an hour ago. My bad.

Anyway, last night we talked about the blog over dinner. You said you started the blog to learn more about me and so far you haven’t learned anything new. Well I guess I have to start trying harder, but honestly I’m not that interesting and no, that’s not me trying to be humble.

I also remember you telling me I should write about…something, but for the life of me I can’t remember what the topic was. My bad again. I really can’t get anything done while I’m on vacation.

So, instead, I’m going to make of lists of the things you probably don’t know about me. This isn’t going to be a groundbreaking post, but it’ll do. Again, I’ve got the vacation brain going on here.

Let’s see if I can do this:

  • My favorite Shakespeare play is Much Ado About Nothing, which I read in high school to fill the Shakespeare comedy requirement on the syllabus. If I ever try out theater, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, I’d like to play Beatrice in this play.
  • My favorite non fiction book is On Writing by Stephen King, which I read right after college. It inspired me to write my first novel, Bull Shark, which is a terrible, terrible story, but at least it’s a story.
  • My Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw. I decided this in high school when I started taking AP classes and became a perfectionist.
  • I don’t have a favorite fiction book. There are too many to be honest.
  • My favorite shade of lipstick is the touch of berry from e.l.f. I love wearing it because I was very self conscious about being feminine in middle school and now love to embrace my girliness.
  • My goal is to have 15 tattoos, five of which will be from the Legend of Zelda. I like the idea of being a living piece of art. I also love the fact that my tattoos can’t be taken away. There will always be times in my life when I’ll have to conform to someone else’s standards to live, but I’ll always have my tattoos to remind me where I came from and who I am.
  • I still listen to System of a Down on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ll ever shake my emo phase completely.
  • My favorite color is yellow because the purse I took to Costa Rica in high school was yellow. I have no idea why that made such an impact on me. Before that my favorite color had always been green because….how can I say this without sounding like a weirdo? My friends and I loved Kingdom Hearts and decided Riku’s favorite color must be green. Yeah…

Does this help you get to know me, Daniel? You’ve only known me for 26 years. It’s going to take some time for us to get to know each other.

-EMS

All I Read is Stephen King

There’s something magical about reading a horror story. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching horror films. Some of my favorite movies are horror films. I am always down to watch Descent and House of 1000 Corpses, but given the option I would rather read a scary book than watch a scary.  

There’s just something wonderful about experiencing horror through the written word. I absolutely love Stephen King and have actually been on a binge this past month. I’ve read It, Christine, The Dead Zone, Dolores Clairborne, Desperation, and The Regulators to name a few. And let me tell you, it’s been great! I’ve literally been knocking out a book a week because I can’t put them down.

You asked me what my passion was and honestly, horror novels are it right now. When I think about what I’m looking forward to the most it’s hanging out with my baby ferret and reading. I can write about Fijit the ferret in my next post if you really want to know more about her.

Anyway, I think it’s because in my opinion horror novels are scarier to me. Now that I’m older, horror films don’t give me nightmares like they used to. My nightmares are usually about realistic fears, like finances and my career and crap like that.

But, I have had nightmares from a few scary novels. Salem’s Lot, Dolores Clairborne, and The Regulators are the ones that immediately come to mind. Now, none of these are about extremely scary things. Salem’s Lot is about vampires, which if you were a teenager in the early 2000s you know all about. Dolores Clairborne is about a woman who murders her husband, not incredibly groundbreaking. The Regulators is about an ancient god that takes control of a suburban neighborhood, which although it’s unique isn’t exactly realistic. Why did they give me nightmares? How could they give me nightmares?

Because, by reading these stories, I had the chance to create my own worst nightmare. In horror films, the monster is there. Someone else created it. It’s their worst nightmare, not mine. I talked a little bit about this in my last horror post. Horror really works when you give the viewer the chance to add their own spin on things.

stephen_king_salems_lot_01In Salem’s Lot, a tiny New England town is overrun by vampires. The people of the town keep disappearing and then mysteriously reappearing at night. I specifically dreamed about the little boy who was taken in the night. He reappeared in his friend’s window late one night, pale as a ghost with dead eyes, and asked to be let in. He didn’t demand anything, he asked if he could come hang out with his best friend.

When I read that scene, I could picture my old childhood room and I could see my elementary school friends, pale white and monstrous, hanging on my window. I couldn’t tell them no, they couldn’t come in. I loved them and I wanted to be with them. That’s what scare me.

alb-008In Dolores Clairborne, the main character murders her husband by getting him drunk and leading him to an old well. He fell down, but didn’t die instantly. When Dolores looked down, he was looking up at her and his eyes looked black. He was calling her name and, at one point, climbed up the side of the well, covered in blood and grinning.

I read that scene in bed and I got goosebumps. I could see his bloody, dirty face. I could see his creepy smile, a dead man’s smile, as he climbed up. I could feel Dolores’ panic as she thought about what to do next. What could she do? This wasn’t part of her plan. That feeling. That’s what I dreamt about that night.

theregulatorsLastly, in The Regulators, a little boy wanders down an abandoned mine shaft and stumbles upon the sleeping place of an ancient evil. A miner follows him in with a flashlight and when he finally catches up, his light falls on the boy’s face. The boy is grinning a freakishly big grin. His eyes are bugging out and the corners of his mouth are pulled all the way up to his ears.

When I read that, I could see his smile. I could picture a normal little boy’s face becoming freakish and deformed. I could see the way the whole space was in darkness and the way the flashlight bounced off the walls before landing on his face. Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

If I had experienced these stories are movies, I doubt they would have had the same effect. I would’ve been able to brush off the child vampire in the window as an actor in make up. I would’ve known that Dolores’ husband was just a guy covered in mud. I would have seen through the fake smile on the kid.

That’s what I like about reading horror. It gets under my skin, which is exactly what it should do.

-EMS

Horror Makes Me Happy

Okay, so first of all, you’re lucky there’s even a post up. Michael and I just downloaded Pokemon Go and just spent the last three hours driving around Pullman trying to find a Meowth and Dugtrio. The only reason we’re back is because our phones were about to die. The couple that nerds together stays together, I guess.

Anyway, I really liked your last post. You touched on something that a lot of storytellers just don’t understand. You have to respect your viewer/player/reader and treat them like an adult, but you still need to give them enough to stand on when it comes to exposition. Never hold your audience’s hand, but at least light the path for them.

Finding the right balance in my writing has been one of my biggest challenges as an author. Sometimes I fall in love with my story and want to give my reader every single detail, which would just overwhelm them. As the author, it’s my job to immerse myself in the story, but only bring back enough so the reader can get their feet wet.

This concept is especially relevant in horror. I’ve always loved horror. I love horror novels, horror films, horror video games. I have since I was little and to create a scary story, you really need to find that sweet spot between giving enough exposition so the audience understands why they should be scared, but not so much that they can’t project their own fears onto the monster. That’s what makes good horror good, it gives you the room to add your personal fears to the story.

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It (1990)

I’m not sure why I’ve always liked horror. When I was little I used to read a ton of Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark. My favorite movies, outside of the Little Mermaid, were the made-for-television Goosebump shorts and Beetlejuice.

The only thing I can really pinpoint that may have started my love of horror is my birthday. As you know my birthday is right before Halloween so more often than not my birthday had a Halloween theme. I remember having a cake with a little graveyard on it. I remember going trick-or-treating with my friends and then having a birthday sleepover. I’ve always associated my birthday with skeletons, ghosts, monsters, and just creepy stuff. Therefore, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday just because it meant I would get presents.

Not sure if that’s the only reason I love horror, but it makes sense, I guess.

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House of 1000 Corpses (2003…wait, this movie is 13 years old?! Fuck.)

Nowadays, I’ve graduated from Goosebumps to Stephen King and Jack Ketchum novels. I still like Beetlejuice, but I also enjoy gorey films like House of 1000 Corpses, Aliens, and Hellraiser.

Why? Why do I like these things? These books and movies are just full of horrible imagery and people dying. Why in the world do I crave them?

Adrenaline, pure and simple. There is something so energizing about reading a good scary story. It makes me feel alive and in the present. It’s a feeling you can’t really get in day-to-day life without doing something expensive or stupid, or both.

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Heathers (1988)

I think this adrenaline addiction is the same reason I like getting tattoos and going on rollercoasters. During the event, it’s painful and terrifying, but when it’s all over your body feels electric. Horror movies and books do the same thing for me. I just get excited.

I also think I love horror because, in a weird way, it’s a way to cope with all the real horrors of the world. I can watch a movie with computer generated monsters and for a little while I can escape from the mass shootings, racism, and homophobia in our world. I can handle a fake monster because I know it’s fake. The real world isn’t so easy.

I’ll probably be a horror queen for the rest of my life, and I’m okay with that.

Now, I’m going back out. I need to catch me a Gastly.

-EMS