A Decade of Darkness

Ten years ago today, I went blind. The final longshot, last-ditch surgery that was meant to save at least a fraction of my eyesight failed, thus ending an 18-month odyssey from light to dark. Happened the day before Spider-Man, one of the few films in a couple of years I’d been looking forward to catching, opened.

Were there dark days? Sure, of course there were. But not as many as you might think. The day of the surgery wasn’t actually all that bad. I was full of painkillers, and wide awake. Not doped up, but pain-free. The next day (since I don’t usually take painkillers), the pain came. And that, well, that was a pretty miserable goddamned day. That was the day – the one day-spent wondering, “What if?”, laying around in bed, and, more importantly, contemplating, “What next?”

The following day, I began teaching myself to type again (yes, guilty as charged. Notorious hunt-and-peck typist, yours truly was). But I did what I always do – I went to work.

One of the things that kept floating to the surface that day in the middle, being morose about it all, was this: I knew the dark. I mean, I really knew it. I’d won awards for my horror stories in high school. Some of those stories got me honorable mention in contests for college writers. Some undoubtedly helped get me accepted into every college I applied to but one. (And, even some I didn’t, including an Ivy League school.) I’d gotten rave reviews for my comic book horror stories, some of which drew fan letters – and some which drew such hateful, vile responses that I knew I’d written a winner. People called to interview me. People booked me to be a guest at their conventions. People flew me all over the country to have me be at their show or store to sign books. Books that contained stories that ran the gamut from classic horror to noir suspense to full-on splatterpunk.

I knew the dark. I’d just have to navigate my way through it on a full-time basis now.

I got the chance to throw ideas at some foreign producers for a TV pilot. They bought my story, not the ones being pitched by the guy who owned the show property. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wandered into uncharted territory when I became the first blind guy to direct a feature film. I endured the death of a long-term friendship over that movie, when I discovered that the attention it was getting and the horror community’s response to it made that ex-friend try to sell the flick behind my back.

Dark days, indeed.

I was a motorcycle-ridin’, ice-hockey all-star, playing on two softball teams, and working at a company that published big-boob men’s mags, for which I sometimes contributed as a photographer. And then one day, I was blind. I was, literally and figuratively, completely in the dark.

But I was comfortable there. Always had been. Pretty sure I always will be.

My first feature film has a distribution deal. A company run by a guy who was a fan of my comic book work back in the day is selling the foreign rights. I have a TV pilot that I’m hawking. I have a slew of great reviews, and more piling up with my latest film efforts. My next shoot? Oh, hell yeah, one of the darkest pieces I’ve ever written. Two scripts that I’m shopping? The term ‘grim’ has been thrown around a lot.

There’s dark days. And there’s darker days.

And sometimes, even from this deep in the shadows, there are brilliantly bright ones. The day I completed my novel, Torn to Pieces. The day I wrapped the best piece of script writing I’ve done yet, on Visions of Sarah. Even where no light can penetrate, you have to accept that somewhere, the sun is shining. And, there is always something new waiting for you up ahead.

Unless you’re in a burning building, take the warmth on your face as a positive sign.

–Joe Monks

May 2, 2012

PS: Enjoy the video. Remember, I’m just headin’ down the acoustic path, the electric’s a guilty pleasure. 😉

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Currently listening to: Return (Coming Home) by The Cruxshadows

11 thoughts on “A Decade of Darkness”

    1. Wait–I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about sex in the comments section?

      Oh, wait, that wasn’t necessarily about sex, huh?  😛

  1. Just wanted to let you know – I draw inspiration from
    you…sitting in sunny AZ, ‘thinking’ I am having a rough day…I read one of
    your stories and go, hmm, I have nothing to complain about, live is good! Just
    like Randy, a great guy (without legs) buzzing around in his wheelchair, that I
    ‘shared’ rehab with after my motorcycle accident – he had the best attitude
    ever – people like you and him are beacons of light – I comment you for having
    such a positive outlook!

    1. Thanks so much Sabine, I really appreciate it! Things may not always get easier, but they sure as hell get harder when we let ’em. (But trust me, we *all* got plenty to complain about!)  😉 

  2. You never fail to blow me away, from skating and riding up until the last damn moment you could to navigating the tectonic shifts in your life with a wicked sense of humor and determination.  Thing is, I’m not really surprised you did it…I can’t fathom anyone as goddamn stubborn as you quitting anything.  Keep kicking ass buddy.  

    1. Stubborn–kind euphemism for ornery S.O.B., eh?  🙂  Will definitely keep on at it, it gets boring otherwise. Will get you & Mabel a copy of the new Chance Meeting, too, people I’ve shown it to are really digging it…and it’s gonna need an all new DVD cover design!

  3. Joe, you are one in a million!  You really have an amazing spirit and zealousness for life.   Anyone who knows you is lucky to have you for inspiration.  I’m very proud you are my Friend.   Guitar sounding good, you’re looking good, and you are color coordinated with the background wall!  Pam and you are a super force!   Hugs, Barbie xo

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