Writing graphic transgressive violence.
I was very sick while writing the screenplay "Vlad the Impaler: Son of Dracul." I had a life-threatening illness and needed to carry an adrenaline syringe, so that I wouldn't die from anaphylactic shock before reaching an emergency room. My chances of surviving this ailment were very slim, and as a result, I was deeply depressed and suicidal. The doc gave me a prescription for an anti-depressant, but I stopped taking it when I read one of the listed side effects: "may cause depression." I sh*t you not.
Such was my state of mind during the creative process. Living and dying were more or less equal to me, so writing about the terrible injuries that Vlad inflicted on his victims was right in my wheelhouse. Death, destruction and unimaginable horror became perversely funny, and the dialogue reflects that change in consciousness. Pitch-black humor was the order of the day. I discovered that when one's internal meter of the meaning of "normal" gets pushed so close to the redline of death, empathy goes right out the window.
So the script may or may not be a glimpse into the motives of a 15th-century mass-murderer, but it certainly offers a peek into the mind of a 21st-century screenwriter who's face-to-face with his own mortality.
I was pleasantly surprised when the illness eventually eased its grip, but I'm thoroughly convinced that going through the near-death experience was necessary to unlock Vlad's secrets.