In Search of Subtitles (for my books)

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Ever since I started my non-fiction book projects, I’ve been in search of a subtitle for each one that fits the book. Why? Because I feel like the subtitle gives the reader an expectation about what they’re going to be reading about. The title is like a summary and the subtitle is like a bit more detail. Today as I got out of the shower, five subtitles came to me and I scribbled them down onto a piece of notebook paper before I updated each page here with the subtitle. Now here’s the story and meaning behind each one:

Breaking Radio Silence: A Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid

In the Fall of 2016 when I first conceived of what would become ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I simply labeled the file ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’. The goal at that time was to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did and to use my own experiences to illustrate anything I learned in the process. The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ wouldn’t come to me till the Spring of 2018 and it fit perfectly from the moment it came to me. But for the last four years this has been a book project in search of a subtitle until today. And as I start writing this book in earnest now, I need all the focus I can get so this is why a subtitle was so important for this project.

Stand or Fall: A Rebellion of Hope

After the US Presidential Election in 2016, I (along with millions of other people) went, “What the hell just happened?” I came up with an idea to use writing to try and figure out how things got so fucked up. Now of course I didn’t know what the next six years would go nor could I have imagined what’s happened even in my worst nightmares. At the time I first came up with this project-idea, I simply labeled the file, ‘Untitled Political Book’ because at that time I knew this book was going to be seen as political. Like, duh but I’m not a scholar so I thought I’d make it personal and tell my own story alongside what’s happened in the last forty years or so in terms of politics and the world in general. I was searching for a subtitle for this book because I kept asking myself what the purpose of writing this if not just for myself? And then the quote from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind, “Rebellions are built on hope.” That’s what I want this book to be, a statement of rebellion and hope.

Behind the Story: How I Write and the Stories Behind My Writing

This book’s origins are a bit murky though I think I came up with this one sometime in 2018, I think around Fall if I remember correctly. Initially I wanted to do a straight how-to book but then I realized for me writing is more than just how-to. There’s a lot to my writing and I think my story in regards to that is worth telling. Now the title of this book was a struggle for me as the title just came to me a couple of months ago but without the subtitle until today.

Uber Tales: Stories and Observations From Behind the Wheel as an Uber Driver

Not long after I started working as an Uber driver in 2017, I began to post on my personal Facebook page stories and observations from the road that I titled ‘Uber Tales’. They took off and people really like hearing my stories and observations so I began to think there was a book in there. As of right now, I don’t have any really crazy or outrageous stories from the road and a lot has happened and changed since I started driving. Also, I’ve read a lot of news articles about Uber driving and I don’t really think a lot of these journalists have talked to a lot of drivers, or any at all. So I want to tell my story and it’s just my story because each driver has their own unique experiences and observations though over the years I’ve talked with other drivers and we do share some common thoughts and experiences.

Dirty Thoughts and Stories: Talking Dirty About Sex and Other Naughty Things and Fiction Inspired By My Dirty Thoughts

This is in its’ earliest stages right now mostly based on my blog here though I think over time I’ll have enough material for a book. This is a mix of non-fiction blog entries that might get expanded into longer essays along with fiction stories. The title is sort of self-explanatory as talking about sex is seen as dirty by a small yet very vocal segment of our population who really just need to learn how to get over their hang-ups and have some fun in life instead of trying to control every aspect of everyone else’s life, especially their sex lives. And naughty fiction is just fun to write and I’m not going to back down on that.

So this is where I’m at on these projects just to give out an update. It feels good to have subtitles I like and that fit well. Now I just need to get my ass to writing, which I will be doing in addition to everything else I need to do (like earn a living, eat, sleep, bathe, take care of my pets, etc.).

Behind the Story – Writing For Attention

My dad once said to me writing was like a kid going up to his mom with a drawing and going, “Mama look it!” (translation: “Mama, look at what I did!”) And he was right because that’s what writing is if you share it with the world. Yet writing, like a child’s drawing, isn’t always received well. I think a lot of writers have a fear of their work being shredded or blown off if they share it so they keep it to themselves. It is an act of bravery and courage to share your writing with the world because you have to be prepared for the best, and the worst.

It’s not a fear of my writing being shredded that held me back for so long. It was a fear of having to deal with people accusing me of being an attention-seeking martyr-whore for putting my writing out into the world, and worse if I was successful, being accused of being a one-trick pony or that I really didn’t deserve my success. It’s why I kept my writing to myself for so long or presented it as a harmless little hobby instead of the grand passion that it’s always been for me.

Fear of success to my mind sounded stupid the first time I thought about it. But as I dug into it I realized it was a real fear. It was real to me because my fear was that any success I ever achieved would be used against me. Yes, I thought success would be used as a weapon to alienate me from people I cared about, such as my parents when they were both alive. I feared people telling my parents that my success would take me away from them forever (which it wouldn’t have at all). Why would people think like this is a question I don’t have an answer to, other than people are stupid as hell sometimes in addition to self-centered assholes who project their own bullshit onto innocent people.

But as I look back on my writing life, I realize I didn’t pursue so many opportunities because I feared any success would be used against me. I only told a few people I once got a short piece published in my local newspaper, and I told no one I could a story published in a national magazine (Playgirl- see story here). I also never talked about my rejection letters with too many people either other than fellow writers who understood what rejection meant.

Now I will admit that a lot of people really don’t understand writing or how it became such a grand passion for me. That’s for me to explain and no one else. Writing isn’t like a drug that I get a hit off of to get high because a lot of times it’s a slog through the muck of words to find the right ones that come together they way I want them to. Praise and compliments on my writing are awesome and always greatly appreciated but it’s not why I write though I’m sure there are people who feel that us writers are out chasing compliments to feed our fragile egos.

It’s not so much fear of success or failure that haunts me and I’m sure a lot of other people, but fear of having to deal with someone’s bullshit and falling for it. I know how vulnerable I was in the past and I know I still have that vulnerability in me though I just try to guard it better now. As my father used to say, assholes are mostly born that way and they usually don’t change either. If someone comes at you with falsehoods about you and your work, try to straighten them out. If that doesn’t work, tell them to take their shit-takes and shove up their asses. And most of all, top all that off with a resounding ‘fuck you’ and walk away.

I don’t think anyone will have the tits or the balls to come at me with shit like that anymore. I think I’ve made it very clear how I will respond to fake shit aimed to hurt me simply because someone is an insensitive asshole. But it’s been a long hard road to reach this point inside me where I can say this out loud in a place like this blog here. It’s not working through the pain and misery and the wounds themselves but working through the how and the why behind my feelings.

I will say this here: if you decide to share your writing with the world, you are seeking attention but on your own terms. I don’t believe most writers seek attention as an ego stroke unless they’re already raging egomaniacs to begin with. Most writers I know write to share their words with others to make a connection like they connected with other writers and their words. If someone doesn’t understand or believe that, that’s on them. It took me a long time to understand exactly why I write and why I want to share it publicly. I’m glad I figured it out and accepted my reasons as valid and worthy.

Luckily for me I haven’t had to deal with a lot of bullshit about my writing in a very long time. Now people tell me how well I write emotions in my work and how I can draw them into a story. That’s exactly what I want to do with my work and I’m so happy it’s well-received like that. My thanks to everyone who shares that connection with me. I’m forever grateful for that.

Conversations From the Road – Long Time Coming

Today, June 24, 2022 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The Court’s majority opinion said that abortion was an issue to be left to the individual states to regulate in any way they choose to. Almost half the states have laws in place to outlaw and criminalize abortion and other forms of reproductive care. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that two other Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut which legalized access to artificial birth control and Obergfell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage need to be ‘reviewed’. ‘Review’ is a thinly-veiled code-word for potential decisions to be overturned.

I’ve known this decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been coming since the early 1980’s when I came of age under the Reagan administration and saw the rise of the Christian Right. The Christian Right has said since the late 1970’s that their goal was to outlaw abortion, access to artificial contraception, and outlaw all rights for LGBTQ Americans. The Texas Republican Party on their platform in addition to this also called for the overturn of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These people have been telling us what they were going to do and they got just enough voters along with a serious amount of dirty money from here and abroad to put enough Supreme Court Justices into place to over turn Roe vs. Wade and put the other laws in their crosshairs.

For forty years I was told not to make political or social issues personal. I was told I had to learn how to agree to disagree with people and tolerate them even if their beliefs were horrible and evil.

SILENCE IS A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

Oppressors and abusers demand silence from their victims. Oppressors and abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them if they speak out against oppression and abuse.

The Christian Right are the oppressors and the abusers here. They have said for the last forty years they were under attack but that was NOT true. They have been on the attack against the rights of everyone who is not exactly like them: white, heterosexual, and Christian (only in name but not in practice).

Thirty-eight years ago, I began writing. Back when I started writing it was because I was in love with the magic of words. What I didn’t understand back then like I do now is this: I started writing to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to find words that didn’t hurt me like those that were said to me. Back then, I knew I wanted to say so many things yet I knew if I did it would not be taken well. I knew back then if I spoke out against things that hurt me and others the oppressors and abusers in my life would try to silence me. They did silence me by making me feel like I had no words that would break their power over me.

Six years ago, I came up with the idea of using writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. I then added using writing to figure out what the hell was going on in our world and what we could do about it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with those answers. And I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to ask those questions and deal with the answers. Most of all, I know there are people in this world who don’t want to hear what I have to say. But my words are not for those that don’t want them, but for those that do listen to me.

Six years ago, I didn’t realize that I was going to do was break my silence. Back then, I didn’t realize how much silence I had lived with. I had retreated and hidden in silence in order not to be hurt by the words and actions of others. That’s a survival instinct but not a way to live. Running and hiding didn’t take away the pain inside of me, or the fear that if I came out of hiding that I would be forced back into that hidden place if I spoke out about my thoughts and feelings.

Right now, I know many people are feeling pain and fear at the rights being taken away from so many of us by our lawmakers and court systems. And they are asking what we can do to regain these rights. My first answer is BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Breaking your silence starts in your mind when you put your feelings into words and let those thoughts flow through you.

After you break your silence in your mind you can then find ways to break it in your daily life. It can be as simple as casting a vote that is the opposite of how you are being told to vote. And yes, I think it’s more than okay to lie about that if you have to because I understand the need for self-preservation.

If you can find the strength and courage inside yourself, you can then break your silence out loud. You can speak out against people who speak with hatred, contempt, and tell lies. You do not have to let hate-mongering and lying go unanswered. You can stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.

I started by breaking my silence in my mind then I moved on to the written word like I am doing here. Now I’m getting ready to move on to the next stage of breaking my silence, which is creating a podcast so my voice can be heard out loud. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and like the other ways I had to learn to break my silence, this one involved a lot of hard work through fear and anxiety that created doubt and uncertainty in my mind.

But I keep thinking one thing: I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing no one can take away from me. I am a broke, middle-aged woman living on next to nothing. Yet I have found peace and happiness like never before in my life. I found that peace and happiness by finding my voice and breaking my silence. And most of all, I found peace and happiness by being on my own, not alienated and ostracized. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know no one else is either even if they profess to be perfect.

As a child, I found word could take me away to places far away from the lonely and painful reality I lived with. Then I found words that provided knowledge and showed me the wonders of the world. I found words that told of pain and suffering, and how to overcome that. I found words that provided comfort when I had no other form of comfort for myself. Most of all, I know my words and the words of others have meaning, and can be used for good, and can provide comfort and strength to those in need.

Today may feel like a dark day even though outside the sun is shining high and blazing with summer heat. And I know this day has been a long time in coming, and that knowledge is what has given me focus today and kept my heart from trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. Because I’ve lived with this knowledge for so long, I realized I have lived with the words inside of me, too. And now I have the ability to share those words and hopefully give hope to others, and to provide a plan of action.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Behind the Story – No Need to Prove Myself as a Writer

I used to think I had to prove myself worthy of being seen as a writer. I felt like I had to work my butt off to get respect as a writer. I felt like I wasn’t going to be taken seriously if I didn’t show how much work I was putting into my writing. And yes, for the longest time, I felt like all the work I did meant nothing because to some people I felt like I would never be good enough for them. Now I know that’s not true but it was a long, hard road to get to that realization about myself.

Where did this need to prove myself as a writer come from?

It came from my earliest beginnings as writer. My father began writing when I was about eight years old. He started out writing with pen on yellow legal pads then graduated to an electric typewriter he set up in the bedroom next to mine. I used to fall asleep to the sound of him banging away on that thing which sounds quaint and cute now but in reality it wasn’t. My father could turn anything into an obsession due to his untreated bi-polar depression and writing was probably the biggest obsession I saw him get into (he always said he’d been diagnosed but had refused treatment, something I can’t independently verify but after extensive reading on bi-polar depression… let’s just say my dad checked off all the boxes for it). And that obsession and huge effort into learning something could be so impressive that it it felt like something that towered over me. Back then, I thought it was fascinating watching my dad work and talking with him about it. But there was a dark side to that obsessive behavior or my father’s and it’s taken me many years to come to terms with that.

My dad could be a real asshole about whatever he was pursuing. He wanted unwavering, undying support for whatever he wanted to do, especially from my mother. My mother on the other hand wanted someone who would bring in enough money to pay the bills because her job really didn’t cover everything unless she got extremely creative with juggling money. Because of my dad’s mental health issues, he only stayed with something until he hit a brick wall like a layoff or lost his temper one too many times and quit, or just wrecked his health like he did in later years. He really went after my mother though when he was deep into his writing-phase because he wanted her to be the meek, submissive helpmate like his author-idols had with their wives (such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald). My mom couldn’t go along with that and she didn’t have to in any way, shape, or form. The problem with this was when I started writing: I had to walk a very fine line in order not to alienate myself from either parent.

For my father, I felt like I had to put in a ton of studying and writing in order to earn his respect as a writer like he was. He always talked about how you had to study and work at your craft in order to get good at it. He was right on studying and working at writing but because of my mother, I had to be careful not exhibit the obsessive and obnoxious behavior of my father. I never really talked about my writing with my mother and I was terrified of hurting her over me pursuing my writing. This is why I worked so hard to maintain my responsibilities in doing chores and keeping my writing to myself.

This need to prove myself was entrenched in my mind by the time I reached my twenties and joined my first in-person writers group. I was one of the youngest members and boy did I felt wet behind the ears. A lot of the group members had been writing for over a decade when I met them, some were multi-published and best-selling authors. So to say I was intimidated was putting it mildly. And with that group, I felt like I had to prove myself and show that I was working on my craft and that I was working towards my goals.

The problem with feeling you have to prove yourself to someone else is that you can’t live on that. In the end, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. You have to trust yourself and your skills and see them through. As a writer, you’ve got to sit down and write, and rewrite, and keep at it until you feel it come together. It has taken me decades to gain the confidence I have in my writing now. It was a long and hard-fought battle to realize I do have what it takes to be a writer because I did put in an enormous amount of time studying and writing. I know I’m a good writer when I get honest feedback from people telling me how my writing connected with them. Because of all this work, I don’t have to stop and think things through with my writing but instead I just keep at it until I feel it’s right. I trust my feelings most of all.

What made me realize I didn’t to prove myself to anyone as a writer is that I do know what I’m doing, that all my years of studying and writing mean something, and most of all, that I  have goals that I can carry out. What stopped me in the past from fulfilling those goals was a fear that if I got anywhere near achieving them, someone would come and destroy me. I had to dismantle that fear piece by piece and destroy those pieces once and for all. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and success isn’t about winning approval from anyone either. Success is something I will have worked for and something I will allow myself to enjoy and benefit from.

Behind the Story – A Book In Search of a Title

Around Fall/Winter 2018 if my memory is correct, I came up with the idea of doing a ‘writing book’. At the time I thought it would be a mix of writing instruction and advice with maybe a few stories of my writing time over the years. Then this thought came to me: my relationship with writing is complicated. I thought that would be the hook to make this book stand out but in reality, that’s been a huge wall I’ve had to figure out how to get through. One way I’ve had to figure out how to work through that wall is finding a title for this project. It’s gone through at least two or three titles but ‘Behind the Story’ feels like the fit that I want for it.

But in order to get a handle on this project, I needed a title I could write to. I need titles to write to so when I’m struggling with a title then I struggle with the project itself. So the first thing you can see about writing for me is that my brain is works in weird and mysterious ways. Putting that crazy thought process into words is a challenge to say the least but it’s one I want to do.

For me, writing is largely instinctive now. I just start out with an idea in my head then sit down and start writing. I trust myself to know when something is working and when it’s not. Like this blog entry here for example has been in the works for a couple of days now with several attempts scrapped. I’m not doing this project to discourage people from writing, or showing off, but instead I’m trying to put into words a process that I don’t really think through before I dive into it.

In my teens and twenties, and even into my thirties, I devoured everything I could about writing. I read a ton of articles and books, attended workshops and conferences and studied constantly. Back then I felt like I had to earn my chops by working my ass off studying and writing. I’m glad I did that but it wasn’t a popular decision with some people in my life. In those years I felt like my writing was seen a weapon to be used against me, something to be held against me, something I felt wrong in doing sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that people were wrong to think that about my writing as I NEVER let it get in the way of any responsibilities I had taken on. In those years, I was just told to keep my mouth shut and keep writing.

To anyone who has a problem with my writing, or ever did I’m going to say what I should have said a long time ago: fuck off. Take your stupid bullshit and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I fought with everything I had to keep my passion to myself and for no damn good reason other than placate someone’s dumb-ass ego.

Like my other writing projects, I’m not writing this book as an act of revenge or any bullshit like that. In addition to trying to illuminate the creative process to help people understand it, I’m also doing it for other creative people like me who’ve taken way too much shit for being creative. I don’t believe every single person has it in them to be creative and curious. In fact, I think there are a good number of people in this world who are the total opposite of that and who sure as hell aren’t shy in expressing that to the rest of the world.

For the longest time, I used to say I just let my imagination run wild and that it was not a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. But that’s not true and it never was, and that’s another thing I’m trying to put into words with this project. And that I believe is also another reason some people may have had problems with my writing because they somehow thought it was about them. It’s not and it never was. But that barrier had to fall in my mind for me to get to the point I’m at now with my writing, this mix of instinct and the ability to put those instincts into words.

The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis

Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.

The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.

Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.

Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.

With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.

The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.

Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.

To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.

The Written Road – My Writing Doorway

A couple of days ago I wrote that my writing is a window into who I am. But now it’s a doorway, an open doorway to who I am. I used to be scared shit-less of this because I always thought if I opened the door and invited people in, they’d either slam the door shut in my face and lock me inside myself. Or they would come in and trash the place all to hell and leave a huge mess for me to clean up.

That’s not going to happen because no one can slam the door on yourself. They can walk right back out that door or not walk inside at all. I respect anyone’s decision when it comes to dealing with me but I will not allow anyone to try and shut me up in silence. And I will not allow anyone to come inside and trash me all to hell because no one has the right to come in and wreck me simply because they can.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been dealing with the big thought that my writing is a barrier for people, a barrier that has kept people from getting to know me or even wanting to try. That’s not the case. I’m just a major social klutz who can do small-talk and conversations on a car ride but hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to do otherwise. So in reality my social skills are just severely limited through my own fears that people will knock me across the chops if I fuck up in some way though I’m human and will eventually do that at some time. It’s never my intention to fuck up and I know I don’t have a mean bone in my body because the thought of cruelty physically hurts me.

But in my writing, especially of late, I’ve let it rip. I’m beginning to put into words things that took me years just to hear inside my own head. And yes, I’ve been afraid of the reactions, and of my own simmering urge to get into a rip-roaring argument. I don’t want to argue because I don’t feel the need to. In the past, when someone started an argument with me they were relentless in coming at me until I gave in. I gave in way too damn many times and there was no reason for me to do so. It was like arguing with a brick wall that my head was being bashed against.

So now this is why if that ever starts up, I’m going to end with one thing:

“Ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can. But I will warn you, you might like the answers that you find. And sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.”

In the past, saying something like this would get a reply of, “Well then I can’t talk to you about anything.”, or I would be accused of being too sensitive.

Neither one of those things is true. You can talk to me about anything but no one has the right to hammer someone into a puddle of tear-filled shit simply because they’re so convinced of their moral superiority that in reality is probably immoral at best, and cruel at worst. What I’m learning now is how to hold my ground and take a stand at the same time. And I’m doing that by saying out loud here my writing is an open doorway into who I am, good, bad, ugly, and everything in between. I’m a sloppy klutzy mess most of the time but that’s because I’m trying to put myself back together in a way that’s best for me.

My writing is something I love even when it drives me nuts and makes me hurt like hell. Because using writing as therapy is not easy. At times it feels seriously fucked-up and has had me thinking I’m nuts in trying to put into words shit that has been buried for so long. But my shit isn’t a corpse that’s supposed to stay buried. And my writing is not shit. And most of all, I’m not a human piece of shit because I write and over-think crap and come off as too damn sensitive.

When I conceived of my non-fiction writing projects six years ago, I had no idea what they would do to me. But as I’m fond of saying to myself and out loud here, neither did anyone else if they had known. I don’t regret for one moment starting these projects and all the crap they put me through. This is why I say writing isn’t easy for me and it never will be. It’s also why this project, ‘The Written Road’ may be the hardest of the non-fiction triumvirate as I call them (‘Breaking Radio Silence’ and ‘Stand or Fall’ being the other two here). I’m trying to put into words what comes to me quite naturally. I put my hands on a keyboard and once I find that first word I’m off to the races.

The Written Road – Not Stealing Writing Time Anymore

When I began writing I felt like I had to hide it from the world. A lot of that was because my dad was a major jerk about his writing at times, especially to my mother. My father was like a lot of male writers in that he expected instant and unquestioning devotion and acceptance from my mother about his pursuit of writing, which she refused to give him because that was her choice. A lot of male writers succeed because they have a wife or significant other to take care of their day-to-day shit so they can pursue their high-and-mighty craft.

Female writers as I learned very early on don’t have that kind of support system and sure as hell don’t ask for it or expect it at all. For female writers, writing is something done late at night, early in the morning, and most of all, hidden away. From Jane Austen hiding her manuscripts under a desk blotter in the sitting room anytime someone came over, to Margaret Mitchell and Danielle Steele setting up their typewriters in the laundry room, to Jackie Collins and Nora Roberts writing on spiral notebooks in the carpool line, women write but feel the need to hide it until they achieve some measure of success or at least are able to make it pay for itself. But it’s a hard-fought battle to feel like you have the right to pursue your writing even though you’re doing your best not to bother anyone with it.

In my teens, I tried my best to keep my writing to myself. I didn’t really talk about it with anyone other than my father and I felt like I couldn’t because I hadn’t paid my dues. I wrote in between classes in school, and in class with my papers hidden under my textbooks (my teachers probably thought I was taking notes until my grades showed otherwise).

In my twenties during the years I took care of my mother is when the shit began to hit the fan writing-wise for me. I knew my parents took flack for letting me live at home rent-free and write when I wasn’t busting my ass taking care of much as I could so my mom didn’t have to while the cancer was slowly killing her. I’m forever grateful for my parents for their support of my writing at the time but knowing they were having to waste precious time and energy defending a decision that was no one’s business but mine and theirs still pisses me off now. Back then, that flack dug a fear deep inside me that took me over twenty years to put into words.

In my thirties, I tried to make it look like writing was a nice little hobby because I didn’t want anyone to use it to drive a wedge between my father and me. I was his sole caregiver and it was a choice I made knowingly and willingly, and without regret like the decision I made to sacrifice my own goals and ambitions to care for my mother.

But this sacrifice came at one hell of a price because it’s taken me close to a decade to see that I didn’t need to hide my writing, or justify it to anyone in any way, shape, or form. It’s taken me close to a decade to fully realize my writing is mine, and mine alone. And if someone doesn’t like that, that’s their opinion that they’re fully entitled to. Just as I’m fully entitled to respond to that in any way I choose to, like writing this here.

I wonder how many writers feel like thieves stealing time to do something that they think people will destroy if they find out how much it means to them. I want to say to those writers no one can take your writing from you or destroy you because of it. People who mouth off at you for pursuing something in silence and on your own time are just bullies. And the easiest way to get a bully out of your life is to stand up and call them out on their lies and bullshit then walk away and keep doing what you do.

Most of all, my fellow writers, don’t waste any time trying to figure out why people don’t want you to write or just don’t like your writing. You are not responsible for figuring out other people’s thoughts and feelings, or to work their bullshit. I spent way too much time in my past trying to do that and got nothing in return so don’t even take one step in that direction. Write, and keep writing and do whatever you have to in order to shut these naysaying morons out of your mind.

You don’t have to steal time to write. You have to find the time, or make the time you have work for you. But that’s not stealing time at all if you’ve taken care of your responsibilities.

Just write and keep writing.

The Written Road – An Origin Story

I started toying with the idea of doing a how-to writing book around the same time as “Breaking Radio Silence” and “Stand or Fall” with some personal experiences mixed in. But then I had a thought one day:

My relationship with writing is complicated.

And as I asked myself why that was, I fell down another rabbit hole like with the other two books and had to take a whirl around the demented Wonderland of my past to answer that question. One answer that jumped out at me and knocked me back hard was this:

Did my father try to use writing to deal with his untreated mental illness?

All my life my father told me he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar depression but had refused treatment. I can’t independently verify that diagnosis (as my father is dead and he had no proof to show me when he was alive). But after reading about bi-polar depression… let’s just say he would have checked pretty much all of the boxes for symptoms and behavior.

I was about eight years old when my dad blew an ulcer and in recuperation started writing. He wrote at first on yellow legal pads then hammered away on a typewriter in the bedroom next to mine late into the night. He was obsessive and a major pain the ass about his writing at times especially to my mother (who he raged at in incredibly-horrible ways). And when I began writing when I was about ten years old, I put myself in a precarious position of not wanting to be an asshole about my writing like he was but wanting to pursue it with the same passion like he had.

I’m sure people who knew my father, and even others who didn’t, won’t be comfortable with me referring to him in the ways that I will. But my father, and my mother (both of my parents are dead, by the way), would be the first ones to tell you they weren’t perfect. One thing I’ve read about bi-polar illness is the extreme mood swings people with that illness have and my father had those in full-blown stereo. But my writing journey is about me but he will be along for the ride just like my mother is along for the ride with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project.

I was around twelve years old when I decided I wanted to be a full-time working writer. In junior-high I wanted to be a songwriter/lyricist but I couldn’t find an Elton John to my wannabe Bernie Taupin. Then I wanted to be a journalist, then a screenwriter, a filmmaker-director, then a novelist. When I graduated high school I just wanted to write and my dad went to bat for me with my mom (though my mom only agreed to let me live at home and write if I did chores and errands, which I did without a second’s hesitation). Then my dad had his first heart attack when I was nineteen and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty-one. But all throughout my twenties when I was living at home and taking care of them (and later working part-time then full-time), they supported my writing. They paid my writers’ group dues, conference fees, and made sure I had time to write. This wasn’t a popular decision of theirs with other people in my life at that time but my parents asked me not to say anything and I stayed silent to keep the peace. But the damage was done (and a lot of it you can also read about in my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).

In the years since my parents died, I didn’t fully pursue my writing and creative endeavors due to the extreme bullshit of my twenties that twisted me into a huge knot of fear. Luckily I’ve worked through that shit and un-knotted that fear and am now pursuing my writing with a passion and determination like never before.

Most of all, I have never taken writing for granted and it’s never felt like a grind to me. And I will never let anyone try to make it a grind for me, or shit all over me for writing. Despite all the bullshit I’ve been through and the time away from it, writing has always been there for me. And yes, it’s been a form of therapy for me, too. My father kept journals that he destroyed shortly before he died so I have a feeling that writing was his therapy, too. Mine is just more public than his, and I’m also not prone to huge mood swings and raging paranoia like him (just anxiety I’ve learned to gain a significant measure of control over).

So I would say ‘The Written Road’ is a memoire of my own writing journey, a conversation with my late father, and any writing how-to I can work in.

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