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Write What Terrifies You

by Alexa Baczak 3 months ago in how to

Horror Writing With PTSD

Write What Terrifies You
Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash

I'm starting a new short story today based on the traumatic experience I got out of a year ago.

It didn't take much pre-writing for me to know what I was doing. I took one look at the notes and knew it would be good, so I started writing.

Then I stopped writing.

My eyes were tired and heavy. I couldn't finish this thing in one day, but I know once I start writing it, I won't be able to stop. So, I stopped, just for the day. I would need a full tank of energy when I came back to it.

Writing involves a lot of bleeding on the page. I'm a pretty decent writer when I'm distant, but when I bleed, I know that is when I know I can't do anything else but be a writer.

Horror writing involves invoking a dangerous place and intense emotion in a safe place, and that is why I know I need to do this. I need to invoke the dangerous place and feel it and exhale it and put it on the page.

I need to let it go and make it beautiful. And even though it will stay trapped in me some days for the rest of my life, at least I wrote one thing that others could relate to. If I didn't survive, I would have never had the chance.

Trauma has also stopped me from writing. Trauma has told me I'm not good enough. Trauma has been the reason I stayed in bed and stopped writing for years. Trauma is being frozen in the first second after midnight.

Fear isn't trauma. Terror isn't trauma. Trauma is permanent, but terror is what I felt before trauma glued me to the bed. Terror is reversing the clock to just before twelve and letting the clock keep ticking this time.

Writing what terrifies you isn't easy. And it isn't safe. It isn't to be forced or romanticized. You don't need to write your trauma to be a good horror writer, but sometimes you need to do it for your own healing.

Don't exploit your trauma. Heal it. If and when you make the choice to write it, do it for yourself. Do not retraumatize yourself. Reterrorize yourself and take control of it. The story is yours to tell when you're ready, and if you never are, that is okay. This is only why I am.

It is hard, and it will be the hardest story I've ever written. It terrifies me. But it is my way of having the last word. In writing my story, I'm writing over what was written over me. My brain is going to do it anyway. But in this way, I can do it on my own terms. On pages where I know it wasn't my fault. On pages where I can show my terror in monsters and symbols instead of letting them stay in my head.

I survived, and I can write about it. I am so much stronger than one story, and that's why I write it.

In the end, trauma isn't an emotion. It is the empty space of the emotions I wasn't allowed to feel. The times I had to be strong and forget I was terrified. When my only emotion was survival.

Horror is where I let myself feel what I couldn't before. Writing what terrifies me allows me to admit it terrifies me. It is where I don't have to be so strong anymore. I don't have to chop off pieces of myself to lighten the load so I can run away. In words, I can add those parts back and stitch them together.

Horror is where my terror dances and my trauma can't touch me, and that is why I write what terrifies me.

In horror, I'm alive again. And I'm doing much more than surviving.

how to
Alexa Baczak
Alexa Baczak
Read next: I See You
Alexa Baczak

I woke up this morning with too many thoughts, and I'm going to make it everyone's problem | alexabaczak.com | alexabaczak.substack.com/welcome

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