The Appeal of Halloween to an HSP Who Doesn’t Like Horror

I’ve never liked horror – films or books – and the few famous films in that genre that I did watch when I was in my teens/early twenties (Silence of the Lambs, Seven) pretty much freaked me out so much that I quickly realized that although a lover of fantasy and science fiction, horror was never going to be my thing. Two decades later I haven’t changed my mind on that. Which is why I think my husband gets confused by my love of Halloween. So recently, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about Halloween that I enjoy so much. This is what I came up with:

1) Halloween means different things to different people. Obvious, I know, but as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) I am really not into Halloween as ‘night of horror’ (or the accompanying gruesome, horror film-derived masks/costumes, or horror film watching). But, linked as it is to Samhain, what fascinates me about Halloween is that it is considered to be:

“…a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. This meant the Aos Sí (pronounced /iːˈʃiː/ ees-SHEE), the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.” From Wikipedia.

As a lover of all things fae, uncanny, otherworldly, (and the pleasantly spooky, but not horrifying, spine-tingling that otherworldliness affords) this is pretty much my thing.

 

Spirit of the Night, by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Spirit of the Night, by John Atkinson Grimshaw

 

2) Dressing up! As an HSP I hate getting out of my comfy tracky bottoms and into something… less comfortable. But as a lover of art and all things beautiful I relish the idea of ‘me as art’ i.e. transforming myself into something otherworldly. My kids enjoy this bit too.

3) Pumpkin carving. Another chance to get creative, but with fruit! (And to also light lots of cheery candles.)

 

Pumpkin eating pumpkin, photo by Marija Smits

Pumpkin eating pumpkin, photo by Marija Smits

 

4) Halloween baking. Over the years I’ve made my fair share of pumpkin soups, stews and pasta dishes (not to mention the sweet treats). Again, my creative side likes the opportunity to cook something I normally wouldn’t cook.

5) The chance to chat to neighbours. Okay, as a prefer-to-stick-to-the-comfort-of-my-own-home HSP I’d rather stay in my house than take my kids trick-or-treating, but going trick-or-treating does push me out of my comfort zone to actually talk to people. It helps me to put a ‘face to a house’ (if you see what I mean) and to remember that the majority of people are actually pretty kind and go out of their way to make little kids feel like the stars of the (Halloween) show. One lady always gives us apples as well as sweets, and I’m pleased to say that my kids seem to value her jewel-red apples as much as the sweets!

6) Recently, I’ve enjoyed finding out more about the Day of the Dead (my daughter’s been particularly fascinated by this) and making links between all the global Halloween/All Souls Day festivals as well as Skeleton Woman/Lady Death, from Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Skeleton Woman being another facet of the Wild Woman). It’s important to acknowledge the ‘life, death, life’ aspect of our lives, and nature, and Halloween is one of the few festivals to do that.

7) A chance to play party games (such as apple bobbing) or to put on magic shows, shadow puppet shows… anything not too scary suits me just fine!

8) It reminds me of my childhood… and dressing up and going out trick-or-treating with my big sister and her friends. I felt ‘very big and grown up’ to able to do this, and I remember it as being fun (it helped too that my parents treated the whole thing as one big child-friendly party). I think I was nearly always a black cat (it was an easy costume to put together), which suited me fine, because cats are great.

 

Our new cat, Mitsie, photo by Marija Smits

 

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Begone all spooks!

There are always times of increase and times of decrease. I guess they roughly follow the shape of a sine wave: up and down, up and down, up and down. It’s particularly in those ‘down times’ that we look to the future, that we hope that, “This time next year we’ll be millionaires.” (I’m a big fan of Only Fools and Horses, can you tell?!)

I’ve really loved being at home with both children this half-term. We’ve done lots of fun things, enjoyed being outside amidst glorious autumn colour and spent time with loving grandmothers.

Yet in the background my email inbox has been pinging away with writing rejections. I don’t often write about my writing – any free time, just for me, is crammed full of creativity, and I find that writing about that creativity seems to be a hindrance to me doing more creative things. So I admit, I’m not great at letting people know what I’m up to.

But on the writing front it has been busy! I have pretty much finished editing my first novel, I’ve written a few short stories, several pieces of flash fiction and many poems. And I’ve actually been sending them out (which, I find, to be the greatest faff of all!). I’ve been pretty organized about my submissions recently and kept a note of what I’ve been sending out. I can see that since July I’ve made 21 submissions. I do feel a great sense of achievement for just getting those things out there.

After years of sending work out, I’m pretty philosophical about rejections. I try to see it as a pleasant bonus to be published; the real treasure is in the craft of writing, when my Muse takes flight and I find myself transported to another world.

But… being a highly sensitive person, I still find that a part of me takes rejections personally, and so I cannot help but find that they lower my mood. I really do understand the odds. It’s tough finding just the right magazine/publisher/online site for that piece of writing; and then of course I know that there must be several hundred (or perhaps several thousand) other writers submitting their work alongside mine too. And each one of us hopes for the ‘yes’ that gives us a sense that what we are doing is worthwhile, and even, perhaps, wins us a little bit of much-needed money.

Rejections are absolutely manageable, but when they’re accompanied by a chest full of cough and cold, huge amounts of work to do for my other job as founder of a small press, and continued financial uncertainty in our family finances it somehow all feels like too much. It feels as though the ‘down time’ is here to stick around for a while.

Tonight as I go trick-or-treating with the kids I hope that our own Jack-o’-lantern will serve to ward off some of the spookiness of rejections; I especially want it to banish those tricksy thoughts which come unbidden alongside a rejection: What’s the point of all this effort? Maybe you’re just not cut out to be a writer. 

And if the Jack-o’-lantern can actually do anything about the actual rejections too, that’ll be a real bonus! [I’ll keep you posted about that… :-)]

 

Grinning Jack-o-lantern 2014 low res scaled

Sharing this (one year belatedly!) with the wonderful Chrissie and Maddy of #WhatI’mWriting fame. 🙂

Muddled Manuscript