The Creative Cycle

The Creative Cycle

I’m intimately familiar with the creative cycle and I’m sure you are, too. Though rarely do I experience all stages of the cycle in a single hour. But such was the case today as a new story idea surfaced.

Here’s how it went.

  1. Now this, this right here, is an idea. Oh yes, this is perfect. I love this idea.
  2. Oh for fuck’s sake, there’s no obvious conclusion, there are plot holes galore, this is barely even a half-baked concept let alone a story with legs. Another ‘idea’ for the bin. An idea that was never really an idea at all.
  3. Hang on a minute, I guess I could do this, that’ll make it sing all right …
  4. Maybe this is an idea. Maybe this isn’t total rubbish. But then maybe it is … I just don’t know.

And arriving at stage four is a comfortable place to be.

As my Creative Writing tutor George Ttoouli once said—and I oft quote—if you’re not sure whether a story is good or not that’s a great place to be. If you think it’s perfect you’re likely deluded (for what is perfection but an unattainable illusory concept). If you think it’s terrible you’re likely right. But if you’re not sure, if you’re uncomfortable … well, that’s the creative sweet spot.

Of course, George likely said it much better and more eloquently than I have.

So that’s the creative cycle, from self-loving to self-loathing and all shades in between.

When things get tough, persist.

Sooner or later the cycle will come around.

Sooner or later you’ll find the creative sweet spot.

All The Audiobooks I Listened To on Audible in 2017  

I often write and speak about the benefits of reading via audiobooks, so thought I’d provide you with a list of the audiobooks I read last year, emboldening my favourite in each category. I managed to read forty-nine audiobooks this past year so naturally, I’ll be shooting for fifty in 2018.

Anyway, check out the list and let me know which audiobooks you listened to last year and which were amongst your favourites.


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

  1. Psycho by Robert Bloch
  2. The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  3. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  4. Pines by Blake Crouch
  5. The Sadist’s Bible by Nicole Cushing
  6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  8. Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja
  9. Kissing the Bee by Kathe Koja
  10. The Magic Wagon by Joe R. Lansdale
  11. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  12. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
  13. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  14. Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
  15. The Elementals by Michael McDowell
  16. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  17. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  18. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  19. Lost Girl by Adam Nevill
  20. The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy
  21. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
  22. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  23. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama


Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

  1. Irresistible: Why We Can’t Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching by Adam Alter
  2. Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster – in Just Two Weeks by Dave Asprey
  3. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  4. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull
  5. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
  6. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  7. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
  9. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Short stories and collections

Fox 8 by George Saunders

  1. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  2. The Voice from the Edge, Vol. 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
  3. Behold The Void by Philip Fracassi
  4. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
  5. Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
  6. Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  7. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman Volume 1 by Haruki MurakamiBlind Willow, Sleeping Woman Volume 2 by Haruki Murakami
  8. Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
  9. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
  10. Five Short Stories by Women by Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Hempel, Rebecca Lee, Nadine Gordimer, and Sandra Cisneros
  11. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flanner O’Connor
  12. The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett
  13. Make Something Up by Chuck Palahniuk
  14. Fox 8 by George Saunders
  15. Tenth of December by George Saunders
  16. Little Dead Red by Mercedes M. Yardley

Let me know your favourite audiobook listens of last year. And if you’re so inclined you can grab a free 30-day trial here:

Audible UK customers start your free trial here.


On Speaking About Negative Self-Talk

Tama Lake Japan

Heads-up this might be the most honest thing I’ve written.

In the past few weeks I’ve really upped my meditation game and began reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Tolle’s book is about being totally in the present moment. Focussing on the now and training your mind to move away from thoughts about the past and future.

But today isn’t really about The Power of Now.

See, here’s the thing about telling someone not to think about something … chances are they’ll start thinking about it.

Give it a go. Try not to imagine an elephant.

And thus I’ve been thinking a lot about the past and my mind has gone to some very dark places.







This morning I was consumed by so much negativity, so much self-hatred, so much sadness, and anger that I really didn’t know what to do.

I read articles and books and religious passages and philosophical extracts as I tried to find a way out.

It wasn’t enough.

I didn’t know what options I had left.

If I had any options or anything left.

So I spoke with my wife. Told her about all the pain. All the darkness. All the negativity.

Told her things that I hadn’t told her in almost a decade of our relationship.

Things I hadn’t told anyone.

And she listened.

And she told me things she hadn’t told me in almost a decade of our relationship.

Things she hadn’t told anyone.

And I listened.

Together we have and will continue to help each other navigate through the darkness.

If you have pain and shame and regret and guilt, please do not carry it alone.

However difficult, however much self-hatred is trying to consume you, speak to someone.

Don’t let the darkness win.

Why I’m Listening to One Brian Eno Track on Repeat Whilst Writing 

Brian Eno Reflection

I’ve been listening to Brian Eno’s Reflection on repeat during my current writing project to get me in the zone and boost concentration. It’s one less decision to make so I can focus solely on the writing. It’s familiar enough that it isn’t distracting, and it also serves as a way of signalling to my brain that it’s time to work. Best of all, at sixty-five minutes it’s long enough that it doesn’t feel agonisingly repetitive.

Why not give it a try?

Other recommended Brian Eno Tracks to Write to

‘Neroli’ [57:56]
‘Thursday Afternoon’ [60:50]
‘Discreet Music’ [31:34]

Failing Without Failing

Try Again Fail Better Samuel Beckett

We’re almost halfway through the year and as such we’re nearing the halfway point of The 2017 One Story Per Week Writing Challenge. It’s a tough challenge and many of us have slipped behind. There have been whisperings from writers about failing the challenge, about being unable to sustain the pace required to write 52 stories in one year.

But is it really failing if you fall short and write 40, 30 or even 20 stories in the year? Twenty stories in one year doesn’t sound like failure to me, it sounds like a damn fine achievement.

Which brings me to goal setting. See, every year I set myself 3–5 SMART goals, most of which are ambitious but I always believe I have a chance of achieving them (otherwise what’s the point of setting them?). I create goals that will push and challenge me. So much so that if I fail I don’t actually fail. I achieve more than I would have had I not set a goal in the first place. Had I just plodded along.



So, if you’re beating yourself up about not being where you wanted to be in June 2017, look at where you are now compared to the start of the year. And if you’re not very far along at all? No matter. You can’t change your past, but you can act now, and you can shape your future.

Keep on going.

Keep on failing.

Keep on achieving.

Let’s Celebrate Finishing Stories

Celebration Fireworks Rainbow Bridge Tokyo

I was recently listening to Jon Padgett’s interview on The Lovecraft eZine. Jon mentioned Thomas Ligotti’s ‘victory walk’ upon finishing a story. And it got me thinking, I should celebrate finishing my stories more. Sometimes upon finishing a story I, too, will go for a walk but it’s less a celebration and more about clearing headspace and taking a breather. A mental respite, if you will. Too often, I’ll just move onto the next story which may be good for productivity, but, come on, we’re human beings not production factories, we’ve got to celebrate our victories and finishing a story is one hell of a victory.

Here are some ways you might want to celebrate the completion of a story:

  • A glass of wine/bourbon/craft beer/insert your poison here (disclaimer: not encouraging the consumption of actual poison)
  • Movie night/trip to the cinema
  • Going out for food/eating your favourite home cooked meal
  • Playing video games (you finished a story, you deserve Resident Evil 7 in your life)

Personally, I reckon I’ll alternate between most of these including Ligotti’s victory walk—I love getting out in nature, especially with a good audiobook, and that’s what this is all about, creating a celebration that you love.

Now I’m not going to celebrate finishing every single draft (that sounds a little close to procrastination, at least with short stories), but I reckon celebrating the first and final draft is a good rule of thumb. But, hell, that’s just me—you should do whatever you’re comfortable with.

So, over to you, how do you celebrate a finished story? Let me know in the comments or via twitter @wilsonthewriter.

Things I Love (14 April 2017)

Hey Folks,

Things have been pretty crazy this end with writing, podcasting, and teaching. Not only am I taking part in the One Story Per Week Challenge but I’m co-writing a couple of long-form fiction stories and writing a long-form solo project. Add into the mix exercise and taking care of my health and time is somewhat of a premium. That said there is a lot to love in this world and I’d like to share just a few of the things that I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks.


Last year Bracken MacLeod released the fantastic arctic horror novel Stranded which I recently revisited via the audiobook narrated by PJ Ochlan. Right now I’m reading another two books by MacLeod. First up is 13 Views of the Suicide Woods, MacLeod’s debut13 views of the suicide woods Bracken MacLeod short story collection hot off the press, and whilst I’m only a quarter of the way through, these very human tales of horror and tragedy are amongst my favourite short stories of the year. Last time I enjoyed a debut short story collection this much was North American Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. Second is Come To Dust, a novel that will be released in June. I won’t give any details away as I think the less you know the more powerful its impact*, but I will say that, for my tastes, it’s even better than Stranded and you all know I loved Stranded. Watch this space for a This Is Horror Podcast conversation with Bracken soon …

*Warning: don’t read the blurb as it gives away a huge twist I didn’t see coming early doors and then it gives away another twist that turns up a little later. Remember, folks, with blurbs less if often more. This is exactly why we didn’t reveal a certain something withThey Don’t Come Home Anymore by T.E. Grau published by This Is Horror.

Music I’m Listening To …

I’ve been listening to a lot of great music recently but the two albums that really stand out are Songs of Love and Deathby Me And That Man (featuring Nergal of Behemoth fame) and Emperor of Sand by Mastodon. The Me and That Man Songs of Love and Deathformer is possibly the coolest album that’s been released this year, think whiskey-soaked melancholic folk with a Nick Cave vibe. Whenever I put this on I feel like I should be roaming around in a black trench coat being gangster-as-hell whilst filmed through a monochrome filter (sadly the reality is I’m just a twat walking a little bit fast around Kanagawa but I am wearing black). The latter is my favourite Mastodon release since career-high Crack The Skye (though as an FYI ‘Blood and Thunder’ from Leviathan is my favourite track of theirs—I love that it appears in The Big Short which was quite possibly the most metal film of 2015—who’d have thought a dark comedy about the financial meltdown of 2008 would include the likes of Mastodon, Metallica, and Pantera, amongst others?).

Apps I’m Loving …

So, last instalment of ‘Things I Love’ I wrote about my off-on relationship with meditation and gave a shout out to Calm. Well, friends, I’ve recently been using Insight Timer and it’s certainly giving Calm some competition as my go-to meditation app. What’s great about Insight Timer is the wealth of content and it’s all free. If you want unguided meditation with natural soundscapes then Calm excels, but if you want guided meditation from some of the most renowned experts in the field, people like Tara Brach, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg—then Insight Timer has you covered. Of course, Insight Timer also has unguided meditation* but for me, it’s all about learning from the masters of the field.

*And Calm has guided meditation albeit not from the calibre of world-class experts Insight Timer boasts.

Quote To Ponder …

It's not because things are difficult Seneca quote

Now go forth and venture.

I hope this has been entertaining and useful for you. Please hit me up in the comments or on twitter @wilsonthewriter and keep the positivity and conversation going, let me know what you’ve been enjoying this week.

If you want to get exclusive updates and bonuses subscribe to my newsletter in the right-hand navigation.

Have an amazing weekend, keep writing, keep reading, but beyond everything else: smile more, love more, and be kind to each other.

Catch you all soon.


Michael David Wilson

Things I Love (24 March 2017)

Hey Folks,

Hope you’re all gearing up for a great weekend. I thought I’d check-in and let you know what I’ve been enjoying this week and perhaps you, too, will want to check out some of the things I love.

Books I’m Reading …

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman Haruki MurakamiI’ve been working my way through all of Haruki Murakami’s short stories and I have to say he might just be my favourite short story writer. This week I’m reading his third short story collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, originally published in Japanese in 2006 as めくらやなぎと眠る女, and published in English in 2009. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is Murakami’s longest short story collection with twenty-four stories and also covers a greater span of time than any other Murakami collection (from 1980–2005). Though for those unfamiliar with Murakami’s short stories I would recommend The Elephant Vanishes as a great starting point, it opens with ‘The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women’, which would later become—after some changes were made—the opening chapter of The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleI love how Murakami can take the seemingly trivial and transform the stakes so that they seem as important as life and death. I love how Murakami can flip a story and the lens through which it is viewed in a single line (sometimes less). I love his attention-to-detail, his dialogue, the way he can depict so much in so few words. Often I’ll finish a Murakami story and feel exhausted having been through such a vast series of emotions in such a short period of time. If you haven’t read any Murakami you need to address this urgently.


If you like old school death metal you need to check out Obituary’s self-titled tenth studio album released last week (17 March 2017). Intense, pummelling, old school death metal just the way it should be.

Obituary 2017 albumBut death metal isn’t for everyone (much to my chagrin) so here’s another recommendation, Hiromi. Hiromi is a pianist and composer unlike any other. There are elements of prog, jazz, and classical to name just a few genres in which Hiromi transcends. You can’t go wrong with any of Hiromi’s albums but if I had to choose one I’d recommend Spark as part of The Trio Project with Anthony Jackson and Simon Philipps. Hiromi’s music is beautiful—it’s haunting, it’s energetic, and it’s uniquely Hiromi.

(And yes I just went from Obituary to Hiromi whilst writing this—how’s that for eclectic, neighbours?)


I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts featuring author of The Paleo Solution Robb Wolf as he talks about hs brand new book Wired To Eat (released 21 March 2017). The paleo lifestyle (I refuse to call it a diet) has done so much for me but Robb’s new book, Wired To Eat, is something of a Paleo 2.0 examining how you can use the paleo template and then modify it for your own unique circumstances. Whether you’re looking to transform your health because of an autoimmune disease, to enhance your performance in the gym or a sport, or to lose weight this book has something for you (I’m reading it right now, check out my Instagram for proof …). It’s both a great book for those already following a Paleo lifestyle and those unacquainted with paleo.

Here are some of Robb’s podcast appearances this week that I’ve particularly enjoyed:

Max Booth III and Lori Michelle recently started up Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast where the two Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing head honchos discuss a Stephen King story each episode. If you’ve listened to any of Max Booth’s interviews before then you’ll know the guy is laugh-out-loud hilarious. This show is as funny as it is informative (hell, maybe it’s funnier than it is informative—that’s an endorsement, Max, don’t hurt me). I’ve also listened to the second episode where my partner-in-crime (well, partner-in-the-This-Is-Horror-Podcast) joins them to discuss ‘Survivor Type’. Episode two is on Patreon right now and will be released for general consumption Monday.


My relationship with meditation is more on-and-off than Ross and Rachel’s in Friends (just seriously dated myself with that reference—get with the programme, MDW, this ain’t the 90s). That said right now it is ON and my go-to meditation app is Calm. It’s minimalist, easy-to-use, and has a range of both guided and unguided meditations.

I’m currently using Google Calendar to organise my workday. Calendars are much more effective than to-do lists (in my experience) and also ensure you manage your day and time so that others don’t jump in and manage it for you. If we’re to be productive and efficient we need to be in control of our own time and to say ‘no’ more. A calendar will help you with that (well not the saying no part, you have to physically say ‘no’ but perhaps Siri can say it for you … let’s see what happens … From Siri him/her/itself: “That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.” Ah well, it was worth a shot). But back to calendars, there are a number of options available but Google Calendar is a great—and free—starting point.


Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote

So stay young, my friends, and don’t stop dreaming .

I hope this has been entertaining and useful for you. Please hit me up in the comments or on twitter @wilsonthewriter and keep the positivity and conversation going, let me know what you’ve been enjoying this week.

If you want to get exclusive updates and bonuses subscribe to my newsletter in the right-hand navigation.

Have an amazing weekend, keep writing, keep reading, but beyond everything else: smile more, love more, and be kind to each other.

Catch you all soon.


Michael David Wilson

It begins … 

It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally set up a personal website. This year I’m taking part in the one story per week writing challenge (check out my LitReactor article for further details), so given I’ll have a number of stories to shop around and—fingers crossed—place, I thought now was a great time to start up the Michael David Wilson website. This is the most personal website I’ve created (so much so I named it after me). It’s a place for writing advice, recommendations, and musings on the creative life.

In many ways this is an extension of the This Is Horror Podcast and my LitReactor columns—I’d love to know what kind of things you’d like to see from me on the website?

For now, the website is a little sparse on content, but don’t worry I’ll be adding fresh content regularly. In the meantime, you can checkout a couple of book and podcast recommendations in the recommendations section, as well as catch up on 137 This Is Horror Podcast episodes in podcasting, and read a load of articles in writing. If you want exclusive news and content be sure to sign up for the newsletter, too, it’s in the right-hand navigation.

With that said do please leave me a comment and let me know what you want to see from the website, or drop me a line:

Have a great great day!

Michael David Wilson