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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