If there’s one unbreakable rule of words, it’s this: always write for your audience. So when I was asked to write a post for (the now retired) site The Fiction Writing Directorate, I slipped into a fanciful, Victorianesque persona.

The Directorate’s mission was to help writers break creative blocks. Editor Beth Wodzinski, (current editor and publisher of Shimmer magazine) picked up on a favourite expression of mine that I usually apply to business: the scent of desperation attracts vampires. Beth asked if I could apply that sentiment to self-doubt (you’ll notice a reference to Ms. Wodzinski at the end of the post.

This was an absolute treat to write. I made liberal use of metaphor, which resonated with the audience, and my own blog readers were delighted with the unexpected change of voice.

Dearest Lida,

I was delighted to receive your correspondence, but surely you jest—vampires? But have you not just vanquished the zombies? This is terrible news indeed.

I won’t mince words, my dear. I’ve encountered them. I am nearly ashamed to admit I have been seduced myself.

Does that shock you, Lida? I apologize. My wanderings in the wilderness often cause me to forget the gentility of polite company. But yes, it is true: like the sweet young thing who falls prey to wistful dreams of adoring suitors and who longs for fame and riches, my eyes—and my mind—were deceived.

But you don’t need to hear the sordid details; you have more pressing matters to attend to.
I will tell you instead about the unmasking of these creatures and the manner in which to escape their clutches.

First, however, I must warn you: the vampires you speak of are highly specialized. They are attracted by the scent of desperation.

No, my love, it is neither the wayward they seek, nor the innocent. It is the disease of doubt that comes from the darkest depths of the soul that draws them.

Have you already perceived the awful truth, Lida? Yes, dear heart—the scourge is self-inflicted. We summon them, like the rose calls to a wasp. In the end, we are left alone, lost, more empty than ever, our lifeblood drained and aspirations dashed.

You must therefore recognize the villain when he presents himself. He comes with pretty words, the sweetest of reassurances, to soothe your most secret insecurities. He pretends to know your dearest dreams. He plays the most lovely music to your ears.

And you may know what happens then—you become lost. Not in the lush forest of creative rumination, but in a strange place where your thoughts are not entirely your own. You become obsessed with pleasing this magical creature. You hang on his words, gather tomes filled with false promises, pressing them to your forehead in the long, lonely night, praying for epiphanies.
You despair, believing your quality will never be sufficient. Why, oh why, can you not become the glorious creature he promised you will be?

When you reach this moment of despair, when all your faith is spent, then it is time to unmask him.

But how, you ask?

It is simple: you must listen.

You will discover the smallest dissonance in his song, a strange reverberation that can only be felt in the bones. That sound is easily lost in the sea of confusion, and yet it is only when you listen deeply that you know: he is false.

And when you finally see the beast for what he truly is, you must turn away.

Oh, I know, the prospect is frightening. Turn away from one so dangerous? It seems preposterous. Yet it is necessary, because he is, in truth, a mirror, the very image of your fear, the reflection of your unacknowledged distrust of your truest self.

Your revelation robs him of his terrible power. When you pull away, the sound of his treacherous tongue begins to fade. You will then experience two strange things: regret, but also the beginnings of quietness.

You must nurture this new sensation. It will serve you well, because you will encounter more vampires. Some of them will be weak, some very strong indeed.

Remember, my dear: you do not need silly trappings. Your finest adornment is your own true voice. If you encounter doubt, simply ask, “What is this, truly? Will I wear it comfortably, or does it chafe as a poorly constructed garment?”

What is true will fit like the finest glove. What is not—you will know. Now that you are wise in the ways of the vampire, you will know.

And you will defeat him, dearest Lida. I know you are fearless when the need is great. You will not fail.

Please give my best regards to Ethelie, Gustav and dear Boggins. I do not know who this Beth person is, but if you tell me she is of fine quality, then I believe you.

I should also tell you I have indeed done extensive research, and it seems I am of no relation to Miss Callista. I confess I am somewhat disappointed, since she is both brave and lovely, but I am content to share a name with this mysterious lady.

Until we meet again, my dear, I remain, faithfully yours.

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