For me, being a writer has been a long journey. Sometimes I think I was interested in being a writer from way back. I could read before I started school. I devoured books and make regular trips to the library after school from grade two onwards. My whole life seemed to revolve around the library. When I was six, my parents bought me a plastic typewriter and I saved my allowance to buy a dictionary and thesaurus as my junior reporter book told me I needed to. Soon after I took printer ribbon from my Dad’s business calculator stash to make scrolls that I turned into comic books. When I went to the mall, the one thing my parents could buy me that would make me happy was a blank notebook, even before I could write.
Later on in life, I was still a voracious reader, but I had little opportunity to write. I lived in a traveler’s hostel in Vancouver but I told people I wanted to write one day. I will never forget an old hippy in that place who never seemed to do anything but drink beer and smoke cigarettes tell me about Jack Keroac, how he would travel and travel and then come home and write and write and then start over again. It wasn’t until I left flight school and my home in Vancouver to return to Edmonton that I really started to write. I bought some books about writing and brought an old typewriter from my parent’s house to my apartment. I started to keep a journal, trying to commit to a full page each day. I also wrote poems, and got sucked into vanity press ‘contests’ where I was told my poetry was top notch and could be published in their upcoming anthology for a fee. I didn’t fall for it-couldn’t fall for it, I had no money anyways. I lived on a tiny disability stipend and had credit collectors calling me at all hours.
My first book, titled “Through The Withering Storm” took some 20 years to write. It began as ideas, then short stories, then was abandoned and taken up again and then lost. When I was living in the place I am at now, a friend gave me a copy of the manuscript I had given her years before to keep for me and my whole life changed (thanks Caroline!) Now, after the book was finished, edited and printed/published, I wonder what drove me to write it. I like to tell people I wrote it to help people with mental illnesses, and help reduce stigma of the illness, but I don’t really know. I’m sure more than once the idea of making money came to mind, and the book has given me some rewards of that nature though not the millions I hoped it would. I think there were two huge factors that made me want to write it: one, I wanted to write and thought it would be easiest to start with myself, a topic few people can tire of, and two, I had been treated like garbage for most of my life and wanted something to throw in the face of my doubters.
As for number two, I grew out of that aspect of it but still it was a factor in writing it. It did feel really good to go to a craft fair at the mental hospital I spent so many long months in and have a book printed with my name on it and not only that, it sold really well that day, some 20 copies. I have to say that if anyone had told me during my last hospital visit that I would be in the position I am in now, doing public speaking, book signings, radio interviews and even soon to be working in the mental health field, I would have thought they were playing with my mind to torture me. But things have gotten good, really good. I think I have accomplished something just in the last week that every male my age wanted to do one day, to make their Dad proud of them. The other day I completed a draft of a Young Adult Novel I am working on and showed it to my Dad and he actually liked it. Years ago when I told him I wanted to write he told me there is only 2 or 3 people in the country who actually make a living at it. I have to admit I still don’t make a living at it, but I get closer each day and writing is so hugely rewarding. One thing that keeps going through my head is that now that there are hundreds of copies of my two memoir books out there, in a way I am immortal. 500 years from now when I’m gone, perhaps someone will pick up a copy of my book in an antique store and read it and understand who I am, what I went through in my life, my dreams and hopes and defeats.
Just so everyone who follows this blog understands, I wanted to state that I am going to get away from a poetry/random blog theme from now on and focus on a writing skills and mental health theme. I will still post photos but the blogs I write will be a bit different. I was thinking today of talking a little about what it’s like to be in the hospital, but I think I will save that for tomorrow and suggest anyone interested who is planning to read my next blog can go and watch my Youtube video, “Alberta Mental Hospital Experience” which is a short film I made and narrated about my time in Alberta Hospital, AKA AHE, AKA Oliver. All the best to everyone, and once again I want to extend my hand and freely give out my personal email to anyone who wants to ask questions, rant, talk, chat, gab or whatever they desire. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and the video link is: