Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.
After thinking long and hard about what to write for their blog, Andrew decided to lean into the struggles and get a little uncomfortably honest.
No joke: I’ve been trying to think of what to write for this essay for a few weeks now. I could self-promote*, sure, but I’m not very fond of that at the best of times. I’ve thought about offering an excerpt from something I’ve written but lately have felt so detached from my own creative output that I simply have not been able to decide what, if anything, would be a decent showcase for my work. Also, I write a lot of body horror and that’s just not something you drop on an unsuspecting readership without warning.
I thought, too, of doing some sort of list as a fun way to introduce people to the sorts of works that make me tick—the books that have fuelled, in some capacity, my desire to write and the themes I so frequently explore. But then I realized I’m not terribly interested in offering up capsule reviews of any one thing. (But for anyone interested: read Daytripper [Moon and Ba], Hygiene and the Assassin [Nothomb], The Shining Girls [Beukes], How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe [Yu], The Inheritance Trilogy [Jemisin], and Altered Carbon [some transphobic asshole] for a solid education in all things me.)
I apologize if it sounds as if I’m rather blah about this whole thing. I’m not, I assure you. But also, I kind of am. Confused? Well then, let me introduce you to my good friend** Depression.
I’m not one to hold back re: discussing mental health. I’ve spoken many times over the years about my battles with anorexia and chronic anxiety, but I’ve not touched too much on similar issues I’ve had with depression—at least not publicly. Largely this is because, prior to 2020, it always seemed to take a backseat to the rest of the internal chaos. But the combination of finally addressing longstanding issues I’ve had with respect to my body and identity, and finally gaining something akin to stability in my professional life have helped mitigate some of that ever-present panic. Which is great, truly—I love not waking up every single day with my heart already in my throat.
But then 2020 happened, and my depression decided to kick down the door in a very real way. And a year or so later… it’s still there, crashing on my couch and not helping one iota with the rent. It’s taken me too long to recognize it for what it is, and even longer for me to reckon with how, for some time now, it has taken from me that which makes me feel most human.
Bluntly, I haven’t been writing. At all. For all intents and purposes, 2020 was the first year since probably 2003 that I just didn’t produce much of anything. It’s not even that I didn’t write; it’s that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write—I felt that a lot—but the actual urge to sit and stare at a page, pen in hand? Gone.
So, what have I been doing instead? Watching things. A lot of things. Mostly horror movies. New, old, good, bad, cult—whatever I can get my hands on. Why? Because as despicable and fucked up as horror can be, it’s also my comfort food. It’s catharsis via simulated mutilation, amplified terror, and buckets of blood of all manner of quality—from “that looks way too real” to “I think this was actually just a bunch of ketchup packets.” Horror films by and large give us identifiable, quantifiable threats, often personified or portrayed in ways that are accessible and easy to understand, provided you’ve got the stomach for it. They take our fears and turn them back on us, show us what they really are. And I love them for that. Also, it’s been a good year for entertaining our worst fears. Sadly.
I’ve travelled this months-long descent into all things gory and disgusting as a means of combatting my own fears while also slowly finding my way back to actually caring about stories again—about wanting to get back to telling them and not merely letting them coast over me like so much has these past twelve months. And it’s working. I think. At the very least I feel something stirring again—a desire to plan and plot—I’m just uncertain if it’s actual desire or just this anxious gnawing in my brain informing me that I’m not currently doing enough to stay relevant.
Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither and I’m still figuring out how to re-light my fuse. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. About the only thing I am sure about is my urge to be transparent—with my writing and with who I am. Because a lot of things are on fire right now, everywhere, constantly, and still so many of us feel like we have to be producing at all times or we’re failures.
But none of that is true. We are not what we produce. Our worth is not measured in book deals or story sales. I have no interest in thinking that way, though I will admit to being guilty of such thoughts, in my weaker moments. But I’ve had a year now of “weaker moments,” and I’m sick of this shit. I want out.
Why did I write this rambling screed about my mental health? Because, frankly, I had no idea what else to write. And if I’m not going to be sincere with you then I don’t know why I’m writing anything in the first place. My work is, at all times, a self-reckoning. There’s far more of me in the pages of what I produce than most people realize. And if I expect anyone to ever grapple with what I create in a meaningful way, then I have to be honest with myself, and with you.
And right now? I’m kind of a mess.
And I think I’m ready to see what comes of it.
(*I mean, I am going to self-promote at least a little bit: See here for my book, and here for an awesome little magazine I co-edit that publishes speculative fiction and poetry from queer BIPOC authors.)
(**Not actually a friend—more of a freeloading asshole that won’t take a hint.)
Andrew Wilmot, visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones, Natasha Ramoutar, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.
Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.