As some of you may already know, I’ve been experiencing a (seemingly) sudden and (seemingly) random turn of career events this summer. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’ve been fortunate to have become a New York Times Number 1 best seller with a book I wrote.
“A book on horror, surely, Drew,” you say confidently.
Nope. A picture book for children...
Go ahead, I’ll wait for the gasps and chuckles to die down before I continue.
The book is called THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT and it’s a hopeful, optimistic book about crayons, the boy who loves them, and a lesson to kids to think outside the box, not just artistically, but in general, in life. There are so many people telling kids to sit up straight, color inside the lines, eat your vegetables, do this, do that. I just wanted to write a book to let kids be kids. To let them feed on their own imaginations and on their own limitless sense of optimism and hope.
I wanted kids to read this book and first and foremost laugh and be entertained, but also think differently about art and artistic endeavors. I wanted them to think about what they were doing the next time they picked up a crayon. I wanted them to question WHY certain crayon colors have certain meanings to them and their peers. There’s no more important philosophical question to art than, “Why does THIS make me feel one way and THAT make me feel another way?” Metaphysical, I know, but guess what? Kids are better suited to the metaphysical than we are and they can go there far quicker than we can, so it’s not so far a stretch as you might think.
Anyway, I’ve found myself at the nexus of two (seemingly) disparate worlds - that of dark supernatural horror, the world of fear and the horror of “Worst case scenario “what if?’s” (where my film career stands at the moment), and brightly colored, optimistic picture books for kids that tell them there are no rules and no limits unless they place them on themselves, (where my book writing career is going).
So there you have it, my two sides - HOPE and FEAR. And they stem from the same place. They come from the very same strand of DNA in all of us in fact.
At first glance, you might think there’s no way someone like me, who focuses so much on the darkness of human nature and existence could also focus on the hope and bright fantasy of childhood. But look a little deeper and you’ll discover what I discovered. That it all comes from the same place. Hope and Fear... they both come from childhood.
Go back to the time in your life when you were most hopeful, most optimistic, most undauntedly positive thinking. You were probably about 5 or 6.
Now go to the time in your life when you were most fearful, most open to new and terrible horrors, to magic, to mysticism, to the unknown, to a world where science, magic and boogeymen were all of equal reality. Again, you were probably about 5 or 6 years old.
All of our greatest hopes and worst, most unreal fears, come from the same time period in our lives. And to be in touch with that time, in any honest sort of way, is to be in touch with both of those feelings. To know yourself, to know your child, is to know the most diverse bit of duality that exists in the human psyche. Tap into one, and you almost can’t help but tap into the other.
Look at all the great horror masters and you will find men and women deeply in touch with not only their inner fearful child, but also their most hopeful self.
Look at all the great children’s authors and again, you will find men and women not only indelibly rooted to the hopeful worlds of their wildest childhood fantasies, but also the darkest villains of their own self.
Hell, just look at a clown some time. Talk about the duality of childhood joy and terror. We’re all still wrapping our heads around that one.
So the duality is there in all of us. I didn’t even know it myself until it rose up and smacked me across the face. But I will tell you this, once you can accept your own duality, your own hope and fear, your own optimism and realism, then your art, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, will flourish exponentially. And THAT is the singularity of knowing your duality.
Gaudium per atrox.