Month: December 2015

A Little Basic Planning and the Apple Watch

DSC_0145            A Beautiful Christmas Day View Of The MacDonald Hotel In Downtown Edmonton

(don’t forget to scroll down past today’s poem for my blog entry)

Good Friends Through The Years

 

As each year passes good friends will come and some will go

As these times pass us by I want to write and let you know

 

You my friends and loved ones are the best part of me

If only I had more than just simple words to make you see

 

How much of my life I truly owe to all of you

And how you make my heart and soul feel new

 

Life was tough and bad luck had me down for quite a while

But now when I feel down I can think of my friends and smile

 

My friends and I don’t all have the same image of a perfect world

But into that same great void we will all one day be hurled

 

There are friends so close and true they are almost family

I have so many dear friends that mean so much to me

 

Some know me only through the words I write

But they are there for me in darkness and in light

 

It is heavenly to have good friends in the summertime

And having friends in deepest winter can be sublime

 

It’s more important that your friends are there through good or bad

There will be times when friends seem to be the only thing you have

 

As a teen friends and I loved to pile into a car

Race off and get some beer or find a bar

 

But the friends I have now like me with or without booze

It seemed that all my teenage friends could do was use

 

And then there is true love warm and precious that can grow

From someone who is already a friend of yours you know

 

A love like this can make your heart feel reborn and new

Nurture these friendships, they can change your world for you

 

Just take care to proceed with caution lest you end up alone

Let any love grow slowly, naturally all on its own

 

And one last thing you really need to know

Love can cause you so much pain when it goes

 

But care for your friends and keep trying for that perfect love

Love and friends are the road to heaven and a gift from God above

 

Leif Gregersen

December 28, 2016


     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, a few more people have joined in the past few days.  I have been having problems with my creativity lately and decided that I should try and focus on poetry which comes a little easier to me than short stories.  Then yesterday morning I woke up and was still extremely groggy but had a great idea, to write about my true life experiences in Vancouver as a 19 year-old but add in elements of fiction.  It worked out nicely, and with the help of a few friends I worked it into something that I felt a bit proud of.  Anyone interested in seeing an advance copy feel free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to send you one.

As far as mental health goes for today, I think that if I can do a bit of work, especially creative work, along with my daily life and mental health maintenance routine, I will be happy.  My daily mental health maintenance routine is something I knew about but learned a little more about in a class I took called “Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or Wrap.  It is a really beneficial course, it teaches you to become more aware of your triggers and to plan out things you can do to de-stress yourself.  I think I find it most useful in planning a day in which I just feel better mentally.  This includes of course taking my proper medication, but then goes to stuff that applies to anyone.  Clean clothes, brush teeth, make sure and eat three nutritious meals a day and get some exercise.  The exercise part is a bit difficult, but in this past year I made an investment in the Apple Watch Sport and it monitors and reminds you of three categories of fitness: how much you stand (it recommends once an hour for 12 hours of each day) how much you exercise (it recommends 30 minutes a day) and how many calories you burn (this you can set).  It takes into account your steps, your movements, your height and weight and is an excellent addition to a person’s daily routine.  At $500 it isn’t that affordable, but I should note it does a lot more than remind you and help you plan your workouts.  I can ask my watch anything, just like google (as long as my phone is within bluetooth distance) the other day I was at a loss to remember a writer and just asked my watch and it told me right away.  You can also ask it just about anything you can ask Siri on your phone like math questions, addresses.  It updates you on messages, lets you use it as a phone to call or receive calls.  I simply love it.  The other cool thing is that right on your watch face you get the date, the time, the temperature, your workouts and even the next sunset or sunrise time.  It makes things so handy to have all of this right on your wrist, my only real complaint is that it has to be charged approximately every 24 hours.

To get back to the mental health maintenance plan though, after exercise, I find it important to spend some time each day interacting with people.  If I don’t interact with anyone I take two giant steps back in feeling comfortable around others and I have to readjust myself when a social situation does come up.  So I spend a lot of time on the phone and try to engage my roommate and other group home residents at supper and other times.

Another thing that has a lot to do with mental health maintenance is how clean your house, apartment or room is.  Having a clean and organized room is huge.  I recently picked up a book called the ancient art of tidying up or something close to that and soon after reading it I threw out a bunch of stuff that may have been worth something but I wasn’t using it.  I also found a lot of garbage that wasn’t of any value at all and now I can walk around and do things in my room a lot more efficiently.  I have a ways to go, but it has already started to make me feel better.

I have been trying something to make myself happier lately that a good friend has kind of been pushing me to do, I have tried to add in more leisure time to my life.  Simple, fun things that I have always liked but not done because I felt it was more important to work until my fingers started to bleed on my keyboard.  I have been buying comic books and even toys and video games just to keep that inner child of mine happy, and it seems to work well and has even made me more of a personable, social person, which only adds to the medicine wheel of happiness.  I also know I would get a lot out of going to church, but I have had a hard time doing this.  I did attend midnight mass on Christmas which was really special and a lot of fun, I love Christmas carols!

Well, dear readers, I leave you at that.  As always I appreciate any feedback, comments.  Don’t forget to have a peek at my books page, I have written nine books now and would love if someone who follows my blog could read one or more of them (available at amazon in print and eBook) and review or comment on them.  Anyone curious should have a quick look at the amazon page for my first book, “Through The Withering Storm”, it recently got an incredibly good review by a well known psychologist with a Master’s Degree.  Happy New Year to all of you and let’s hope 2016 is a better and more peaceful year for everyone in the world, perhaps especially right now for Syrian refugees.

LG

Jerks and Other Types of Assholes

DSC_0112       This is a picture of the Alberta Legislature grounds and building on December 25th

 

Well, I thought I would change things up just a little bit.  I want to start with the poem for today, so here goes, I will follow with some commentary in case anyone is interested.

 

Dear Friend

 

Fight the years that try and break you down

Show no fear even when death is all around

Life can be a journey through many years

And as you grow older your perception clears

 

No one knows what waits for us on our final day

But there is no chance of changing it anyway

Love and laugh and do all that you can

Face life and death with courage, faith and a plan

 

Fight the lies the assholes use to keep you down

Don’t let them make you face your loved ones with a frown

Stand tall if you can and never stop working hard

Fight for the ones you love, don’t retreat a single yard

 

Rewards await for those who truly dare

If you never try no one will ever care

The strength you need is right inside of you

You must be strong and tall and true

 

Don’t let love pass you by as I have done

You can’t spend your whole life with just anyone

The one you love must learn just how you feel

If you ever want to have a love that’s real

 

What is deep in your soul can one day come true

But there is no one who will hand your dreams to you

You have to battle pain and hate and time

But it’s not so bad, your soul ages like wine

 

Your life’s work can last mankind a thousand years

If you work hard enough and overcome your fears

Work and fight until your final breath escapes your chest

Never forget to receive a life on this earth is to be truly blessed

 

I can’t tell you where you will go on that final day

But my dear friend I can definitely say

When you finally stop breathing and slip away

I will not forget to bow my head for you and pray

 

Leif Gregersen

December 26, 2015

     Good day and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who follows my blog.  I don’t really know where to start today, but I guess I should begin with how I am doing.  Last night I was feeling a little out of sorts, it likely had mostly to do with all the unhealthy food I have been eating.  I don’t know how many people who read this blog are interested in my talking about mental health, but I want to talk a bit about it here and now.  It can be a hard thing to have an illness at this time of year, especially in the climate I live in.  Edmonton, though perhaps not as bad as further north areas, has very little sunlight which contributes to depression.  Not only that, the holiday season can be a difficult time.  I am still very clearly reminded of my first Christmas as an adult at the age of 18 and living at home with my parents was very unsteady.  I was deeply in love at that time with a young woman I sat next to in school and I didn’t want to give up on the hope of her becoming my girlfriend, even though I had never had a girlfriend in my life before that.  Not long before, I also experienced a loss of a severe nature, a good friend had killed himself (Rest in peace Brad Latta).  So, all of these things, disappointment with the holiday, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy added to my predisposition for a mental illness and life became very difficult.  It was a short time later that I ended up in a mental hospital and literally lost everything.  I don’t know what one person can do, other than to try and make people aware of how delicate the mental health of a lot of people can be at this time of year.  I am having no problems this particular year, aside from being a bit bored and wanting more to do.  I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to be able to write any short stories lately.  Still, the holidays have been great this year.  I spent time with my dad and brother, I went to see the new Star Wars film and I spent a fair bit of time also with friends.  One of my main problems though is that I find it hard to keep focus on anything.  Whatever I seem to do, except maybe writing, and my mind wanders.  Often it wanders to a perceived slight that may or may not have occurred.  The other day I went into a convenience store and briefly talked to the clerk and wished him a Merry Christmas and some guy standing behind me yelled out, “F*%^&ing Fag!” quite loudly.  I didn’t know if he was saying this to me, but it left me pretty upset.  I seem to run into situations like this a lot.  There was another time, not too long ago when I was going to the till at a grocery store and a young man ran and stood in front of me and literally let three of his friends go ahead of me while blocking my cart and then disappeared.  I got extremely upset and decided to keep slamming my cart into the guy who was in front of me and pushed him too far to use the till when he got there.  He swore at me and asked me to move and I said, “Sure, as long as you say please.” and he called me a Fag.  I have played this over and over in my head and I keep wishing I had slammed the cart into him as hard as I could, but all I in fact did was loudly comment on a piece of jewelry he was wearing.  He smiled and said “Maybe we should take this outside.” quietly to himself and when I got outside no one was there.  I just wish I had a thicker skin, but all in all I think it comes down to just maintaining my daily mental health.  One of the most important things I know works is if I meditate.  A half hour, or even less of sitting and just focusing on my breath and trying to keep my mind clear helps me to control recurring thoughts of these perceived slights.   Then of course I also need to keep in touch with the outside world and watch my moods.  If I talk to a few friends and get out and do a few things, including a workout routine, I know for a fact I will be much more able to deal with topics that I am normally very sensitive about.  Of course where this happens the most is work, but, God willing, I am nearing the point where I will no longer have to work my labor job or at the very least be able to work just a few days a month.

Anyhow, that was a long paragraph.  I hope some of you got something out of it, as always I would love to hear feedback.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care!

Line Up All The Ducks In A Row

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Hello my good readers.  As I write this, it is 5:00am on Sunday.  I am thinking about a lot of different things right now, one of them is the phone conversation I am having with a friend who has to be at work in 3 hours and hasn’t slept at all.  Another big thing on my mind is wondering if I will be disappointed or not if I go try and see Star Wars today.  Then there is the part of my brain that never seems to stop, my critical voice.  In my head there always seems to be a dialogue.  What most often goes through it is distant memories of wrongs I feel have been done to me by random people.  There is the time some ex-friends of mine decided they hated me so much they would set me up to have a young woman we knew go through the motions of seducing me and then out of nowhere punched me in the face and had all her friends come out of hiding near us to laugh at me.  Then there was another time when I went to cross a street and was nearly hit by a guy and I walked in front of his car and he decided to use that as a reason to get out of his car and punch me repeatedly in the face while I was down and never fought back at all.  These things are clearly wrong, but the worst part of them is that I let them anger me now, years after I will never see these people again.  There are some things that help (and there are many more of these thoughts), one of them of course is medications.  I can recall being in the hospital and being off all medications and just being tormented.  Now it is sort of something that just bothers me, but it never seems to really stop.  The one thing I know that can help is meditation.  Simply sitting down, or even walking and counting or even just noticing my breath while I try to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts is such a liberating experience.  It has actually even been proven to reverse brain damage in certain people.  I only wish I could take the time to practice it enough to really make a difference.

Aside from all that, Christmas is coming closer.  It is going to be a short and somewhat boring time for me I think.  I like it to be boring because it is hard for me to think about my mom being gone, even though it is now 7 years since she died.  I don’t think people really ever get over that kind of a loss.  I feel better about her being gone, but still sad.  I also keep having the urge to pick up the phone and call her, and I really wish she could have lived long enough to see me become a successful and published author.  My mom inspired me to write in so many ways.  At first she only really inspired me to read, but deep in me I knew that writing was what I wanted to do.  Even in elementary school I would write and draw my own comic books and I always entered any writing contests our school put on, not to mention discovering early on that I had a bit of a talent for poetry.

Sometimes when I think of my daily life and the voices/dialogue that runs through my head and how I often have to hide myself away and sleep for long hours at a time to decompress from a stressful week, I think I’m really messed up.  Lately I have been having problems writing short stories but I have been focusing a bit more on poetry.  All I really know is that if I keep writing every day I will start to improve, though I have a lot of improving to do.  It can be so hard to learn anything from reading books about writing.  Lately I tried paying a friend with a PhD to teach me how to edit my work and it got to be so expensive I couldn’t continue.  Fortunately in the New Year we have been talking about a different arrangement.  The main problem right now is just having too much free time on my hands.  I wish I could just write for 8 or 10 hours a day but that takes so much out of a person.  I have often heard from professional writers that the burn out time is about 2 hours a day which means 22 hours of tedium and wasted time, but 2 hours seems to be the most I can sit and write.  I can’t imagine that writers like James A. Michener wrote only 2 hours a day, or a lot of other authors did the same, but 2 hours seems to be the best way to get the most quality and creativity out of myself.  Please let me know if any of my readers have experience with this, I would love to share it on here in future entries.

When it comes down to it, there are some important things I have to remember.  I am a person with a severe mental health issue and I need to make my mental health a priority.  Medications on time, appointments kept, diet, exercise and sleep carefully monitored.  Stress kept to a minimum and work only taken on when it is worthwhile and with reasonable compensation.  Not that I mind volunteering, but I don’t consider a lot of the volunteer work out there to really be work.  I would love to go back to visiting dying patients, I greatly enjoy writing for my community newspaper as a volunteer.  But when I work very difficult jobs like the one I have setting up concerts, it better be worth it!  Until I can meet all those requirements, I don’t need to worry about being some great writer or changing the world, I just need to do what makes me happy.  Anyhow, I wrote a poem about poverty and charity and homelessness, which I am posting below, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Holiday Season

 

Around us children suffer, most are deaf to all their cries

People grow a little tougher, and each day part of their heart dies

 

Will you watch the pain around you getting worse and worse each day

Or will you force your very bone and sinew to try to find another way

 

Let your mind be opened, let your heart grow sensitive

Don’t leave the masses hoping that someone else will give

 

There are refugees with nothing, there are nations needing aid

Let your life mean something more than just working and being paid

 

Don’t just open up your wallet, don’t just pay instead of care

One person’s money will not solve it, we all must give, we all must share

 

Right here it’s dirty, cold and unforgiving on the frozen windy street

No one has any hope to make a living with no place to rest and warm their feet

 

This world needs healers, lovers, helpers, who aren’t afraid to lose it all

It needs food and love and shelters, do you hear that noble call?

 

Once I myself was sick and all alone, I had nowhere to go

I had lost my love, my mind, my home, I was hurting so

 

It ended with me living among the homeless, day by day hiding my pain

I felt so completely worthless, I don’t think I could do that all again

 

Will you push yourself to help the poor, give what you can as there is a need

Can you open your heart and open your door, set aside all selfishness and greed

 

I’ve had to fight addictions, I had to fight for my new home

I fought through more than one eviction, and I mostly fought alone

 

But taking the blessings I was given, I’ve made a brand new life

I’ve worked as though one driven, to put behind me all that strife

 

Remember that we all received a present, perfect peace, eternal life and bliss

Christmas day is when God sent it, he wants us to share that and our other gifts

 

December 20, 2015

Leif Gregersen

We Are All A Part Of The Same World

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Well, I just got back from watching the movie “Trumbo” and I really enjoyed it.  I hate to sound like some numbskull but I don’t know the name of the main actor.  He was the guy from ‘Breaking Bad’ and was absolutely brilliant in the role.  The main thing that bothers me about it is that I know when movies are made they end up very far away from anything to do with what really happened.  I am really intrigued by this story though, it was about a writer named Dalton Trumbo who wrote screenplays and was blacklisted in the early cold war years and was stonewalled from working in Hollywood because he had been a member of the communist party.  There were a lot of really interesting scenes in the movie, I think there were some accuracies, one of them that surprised me was John Wayne’s role as an advocate for anti-communist policies.  I don’t really know why this fact bothers me, I always really kind of liked John Wayne, I have always thought of him as larger than life, from such movies as “Sands of Iwo Jima” and many man others.  It could have to do with the fact that I had an Uncle who was John Wayne to me, he was tall and tough and didn’t take any bullshit.  I had a falling out with this Uncle when I was a teen and it really kind of hurt.  I am glad though and very grateful that I was able to visit him on his deathbed and I think he felt some pride in what I had done then.  Not to mention that, the old son of a gun borrowed five bucks off me and passed away before I could collect it so he had the last laugh.

To touch on the writing aspect of things, once again I wanted to tell people out there that have any interest in writing that they really should shoot for their dreams.  A few years ago I wrote, had edited and published my first book and it seems like I have been in a whole new time loop since then.  It is like life has slowed down and all my days are so much more meaningful, all the non-writing work I do has a point to it.  As some may know, I have now written and self-published nine books and I just want to write more and more.  And now as I have been concentrating my learning and effort and reading and everything really on this goal, things are starting to fall into place for me.  I just finished reading a book about a young woman with schizo-affective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and it gave me some really good ideas.  I have now been in touch with a psychiatric hospital and they are interested now in having me come and give a talk at one of their professional development events in the New Year, which means I might not only get a nice speaking fee I could sell quite a few books.  Things like this are popping up all over the place and I am actually thinking I am going to be run off my feet next month.  Not to mention that, I have been doing a lot of writing for magazines and now I am having no problem getting through each month and even spoiling myself and some family members with nice things.

So I will try and nail it down for anyone who hasn’t started the process.  Do you like to write?  If yes, move to the next item on the flowchart.  Choice A is, do you have a special angle?  Are you disabled, are you a minority, do you have a career or a true story that people find interesting.  If yes, then move forward to the non-fiction part of the flowchart.  Now, the other question is, are you creative or artistic, do you like movies and novels rather than true crime or non-fiction books like memoirs?  Then you may want to be a poet or a novelist or both.  There are so many things to explore, I could write a massive flowchart.  The fact is, you simply have to set out what type of writing you think you would be good at.  Then the next step is something that should be almost mandatory, you should keep a journal.  What’s a journal some of you may ask?  Is it a diary?  Not necessarily.  A journal is more your thoughts, your moods, what you want to capture, what you want to express.  Keeping a journal is something that I feel just about everyone with a mental illness should do, it is an excellent type of self therapy.   It is also a great way to get started as a writer.  The next step, whether you choose fiction or non-fiction is that you should start to expose yourself to the very best writing.  I love to go to big box book stores and scoop up all the literary journals I can afford.  Actually, today instead of doing this I went to the main library in Edmonton and scooped up a few that were available for borrowing.  I have found that when I read top notch poetry, I soon get inspired to write my own, and when I read top notch short stories I can get inspired or motivated to start to write, and I honestly think I write better after reading these journals.  The next step, first being writing a journal and the second being to expose yourself to the best quality writing in the genre you want to write (literary journals, award winning books, etc.) is to actually start to write.  If you don’t have good keyboarding skills, I suggest you take a course or get a typing tutor program.  Nothing in my entire education has served me more than taking one 5 month course in typing 29 years ago.  Nothing.  If I weren’t able to type I would be unable to keep up with my workload, would have been unable to write nine books.  Essential.

So where do you start?  I started my first book as short stories.  I told true stories from my life, put them into short stories and then collected them and over the course of a lot of years and a lot of trial and error, it became a book.  I don’t want to get too deeply into the process of self-publishing, I don’t even know if I am glad that I self-published, it has been very expensive and difficult, but it has been a transitioning phase for me.  I hate to admit it, but I am really not that good of a writer.  My whole education in English is nothing more than a grade 12 academic English course.  I have read a lot of books, but with the guidance I could have gotten in a creative writing program I would have been much better off, I would have been able to go past so many hurdles that knocked me on my arse.  We all have a different journey though.  I could also say I had some good times learning to write and I still find it exciting that I have a long way to go.  I have now gotten to the point where I am financially stable through my writing and disability pension, perhaps if I had gone to a creative writing program I would be much more demanding and whining about not having enough money and using that as an excuse to not create quality work.

Well, I think I am going to leave things at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem.  Tune in tomorrow and I will try and talk a little about magazine writing, something I think a lot of writers can use to help them get through the lean years of their careers and also have a lot of fun.

 

An Ode To Chief Seattle

 

The web of fate is woven by nature for us all

And a rare and lucky few will hear the call

Pulling them away from home, family and friends

But that doesn’t mean for these few happiness ends

 

In fact these wanderers can find things meaningful and more

By seeking self knowledge upon a distant shore

And new wonders of adventure and love can be found

When those who judge and hate are not around

 

Myself I think back often to a rainy day far from here

With new found friends that seemed so wonderful and dear

There was beauty and wonder back then in everything

We weren’t ashamed to laugh and cry and sing

 

But in the end the final choice was made for me

Now my body is chained to this place but my soul is free

I walk now down time worn paths to fulfill my dreams

And it is as if I’m walking on clouds and moonbeams

 

There have been times when life has knocked me down

But something deep inside made me get up for another round

You lose every bout where you stay down and give in

You must fight every battle with all you have from deep within

 

And you must love with every muscle nerve and bone

Never let yourself end up beaten and alone

Hold fast close friends and family and build a true home

And soon you will reap the seeds of love you’ve sewn

 

Whether you’ve been nowhere or to Australia and Rome

You can still feel sad and hurt and all alone

But I’m telling you my dear friends and family if you feel this way at all

Do what’s right and pick up the phone and please give me a call

 

I can’t promise to have any answers that will fix your pain

But I might have a hope of making you smile somewhat again

In the web of fate we are different strands but all one net

One family, one race, one world and in each other’s debt

December 18, 2015

Leif Gregersen

Near Midwinter In a Cold Cold Land

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    Here is a photo of a massive cruise ship I saw in Hawaii last time I was there.

          Hello to my many kind followers.  I don’t know really what to talk about much today, the past little while has gotten me a bit down.  Of course I am still taking my anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, so it isn’t really that bad but I think one of my main problems is that I am often sleeping during the day and staying up all night.  In a way this has been a good thing because I have had time to work on my writing, but isolation is something I really have to watch out for.  It hasn’t helped that I was turned down for a low-income swim pass with the city and haven’t been able to work out much.  I have been doing a lot of thinking about not being able to work out.  I know I definitely felt better when I was working out, but I don’t know if I should really go back to swimming every day and lifting weights.  It certainly also helped me when it came time to do my job as a stage hand, but still it was a lot of time, a lot of work and I don’t really think I enjoyed it.  It would be just about impossible for me to stop exercising completely, I love to take my long walks and long bike rides in the summer.  I just don’t know what level of fitness I should pursue.

One of the huge things I think I need to do if I am to stop going for muscle mass is to work on the paranoid/anger side of my illness.  The reason for this is that if I get angry, it will get me into fights, and if I am just some skinny writer nerd type I will really get my butt kicked.  There are a lot of reasons though, I know when I am fit I am more motivated to do things, I feel more confident.  I do tend to eat a lot more though, and this is not only an expense, it adds to my weight which isn’t exactly in the healthy level.

Another fact I want to really face up to is that even if I take all the vitamins recommended, get my exercise and do all these healthy things, it will make a difference, but it will never stave off death permanently.  I have to fact up to the fact that I only have so many days, months, years, minutes, seconds before my time will come, and also that this time may come this very moment.  It is unlikely, but we all really only have the present moment don’t we?  I think what that line of thought tells me is that I have to try and focus on the more important things, the bigger battles.  Who really cares if some guy with a black belt can kick my ass?  I have to find a way to cope with the world that allows me to live among people like this without getting into fights or even arguments.  There really is no such thing as righteous anger, unless of course God communicates with you directly.  There were times when I thought he did, but I am of course wrong about that.

So, I wanted to write a little about writing.  A lot of great things have been happening in my new chosen profession and it has been making me very happy.  I have been approached about having a co-author help re-write my second memoir, and it would mean some drastic changes would happen in my life.  One of the amazing things about writing is that once you get going, aside from a few times when you may be called out of town or have to speak somewhere, most of the time you can get away with just writing about 2 hours a day and still make a success of yourself.  There have been times for me though when I have been driven to finish a project in a short amount of time and spent marathon sessions at the keyboard.  When I wrote my first novel, “Green Mountain Road”, what I did was go to an all-night burger restaurant and sit and write until I had 3-5,000 words done.  It was often difficult to pick up right from where I left off, so what I would do was to read the chapter I had done the previous day and edit it as I went along and I found that soon I had my creative juices flowing.

I would really like to get feedback from any writers out there, especially in the form of requests for certain topics I can address here in the blog.  If you want to know more about poetry, or journalism or any such topic, please ask and I would love to teach you all I know.

Something I also wanted to put out there for new writers is that, especially when you are starting out, it is so important to make and maintain contacts with writers of works in your genre or even just successful writers in general.  You can write to me, or you can often find emails of your favorite authors listed on the cover of books as I think John Grisham does.  I haven’t tried this, but I have had so many great things happen as a result of connecting with other writers.  There is this co-authoring partnership I may be getting into which will give me so many advantages (the writer I have in mind already has an excellent relationship with a publisher).  Not to mention that I found a real gem of a friend in the well known Canadian writer Richard Van Camp.  Richard has had movies made from his writing and has done so well for himself and is just about totally dedicated to helping me succeed.  Him and I get together over milkshakes at a diner near his house about two times a month and he is a massive help.  They say that what defines the most successful people in any field is having a mentor, and Richard has been this for me.  (If anyone wanted to see a review I wrote of Richard’s latest short story collection, “Night Moves” it is on the front page of the Ottawa Review of Books website.)  And then it takes daily effort, persistence and time.  Sometimes it takes a lot of time.  Most people will write their first book over the course of years and write many drafts before they feel it’s ready.  Then there is the process of finding an agent, getting your work edited and sending it off to publishers or getting it self published.  This can take years more and like any other business, you have to establish your repuation.  One of the best things you can do while waiting out this process is to get in to see a writer in residence at your local library, university or college and they will help guide you.  I hope all of this helps, I am including a poem below, I hope you enjoy it.

 

Midwinter Edmonton Musing

 

The wide Pacific calls out to me

Nowhere else have I felt so free

I would plunge into waters clear and blue

But I just can’t let go of loving you

 

Tropical Islands grab your heart and soul

No better way to make a person feel whole

It’s to escape from this cold place in which I live

And to take a little time to relax, forget and forgive

 

In just one sunny Hawaiian day

Ten years of anger melt away

I no longer see the point of a mad rat race

And soon my wrinkles are erased

 

If you were mine and we both could go

I could teach you things no one else knows

We could spend our nights walking the shore and sand

And feel the tropical night’s cool loving hand

 

Looking deep into each other’s eyes

We would not have to wear any disguise

Just you and me and our love that stood the test of time

Finally I would be fully yours; you would be completely mine

 

But if I have to go alone I will

Even alone there are pleasures still

Oh, I would give up a year here for one day there

And that feeling of lying in the sun without a care

 

I would rent a little car and just explore

It’s like opening up a new dimension’s door

To be so very far away from all of life’s concerns

Just one worry: make sure your skin doesn’t burn

 

Now that I found that place I feel I was born to stay

I just need to find some simple way

To say goodbye to all those I care so much for here

And return to the Islands that I hold so dear

 

 

December 13, 2015

Leif Gregersen

Inside Lurks a Darkness

DSC_0080     This is a photo of a building on the grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital where I spent some quality time about 15 years ago.  The place was so old the toilets used a chain from the ceiling to flush and there were all kinds of weird staircases to nowhere.  It really was spooky and looks even spookier here.

(poem at end of blog today)

     Well Dear readers, it has been some time since I posted.  I haven’t been too involved with poetry lately and I have actually gotten a job with two more magazines.  Both of these new magazines deal with mental health topics and so I have not really had much to say about mental illness that I haven’t been saying already.  In many ways life is going really good.  I am having such a great time just about every week meeting with my friend Richard Van Camp, author of “The Lesser Blessed”, an incredible novel about a young man growing up in the North which is on Netflix if anyone is interested.  He has been doing a lot for me and there have been a number of other opportunities open up.  I guess this is a good time to talk about writing, if anyone who reads this on a regular basis wants to write or writes things and hasn’t published them, I want to encourage you to write as much as you can, re-draft and polish your work, have it edited and send it out to publishers.  This seems all too simple, and the sad fact is that it is very hard to get your work published these days, but after giving it an earnest try to get your stuff published, if you feel in your heart that you really have something to say and that people can benefit from your writing, you should look into self-publishing.  I had the benefit of being able to take writing courses and website development courses through my local library for free, and the rewards have been so huge.  I actually first published a book (Through The Withering Storm) a number of years ago but have now sold enough copies to go past the break-even point.  The good thing is that since I have only self-published and distributed in my own area, there is still a lot of potential for more sales in new areas.  I had a successful few weeks going to school libraries and selling books to them and now I want to try and take some time and do a book tour in Vancouver or Calgary at some point.

The important thing to remember though is that you really need to keep writing, keep getting your name out.  Enter all the contests you can and start a website like this one to promote your work and put it on your email and business cards.  If your writing has merit and you are diligent, opportunities will start to come.  I recall being so frustrated that my book didn’t start to sell right away after I put it online.  It took years before I made the right connections and found my way through the maze, the jungle of writers, editors and those who purchase books and pay you for writing related things.  Writing related things… that deserves a bit more of an explanation.  Of course I wrote two memoirs about mental illness.  After taking a course through them, I found out that the Schizophrenia Society hires people to go to schools and other groups to give talks.  This was an incredible way for me to hone my public speaking and teaching skills and learn more about mental illness as I went.  And one of the cool things was that sometimes I have been able to sell some of my books at these speaking engagements and I have been getting myself known.  There have been a number of other things pop up as a result of me accepting what is kind of a low-paying job but a hugely rewarding and enriching activity.  One of them is that I have been hired as a professional storyteller, those two magazines I mentioned are also paying me and allowing me to advertise my books in their publications.  And I have two awesome events planned in the New Year that are going to make me a fair sum of money.  There are many more things than that, but I just wanted to put that down for anyone who reads this blog for the writing advice.

 

As far as mental health information, I don’t really know what I can share today.  I get a great deal of benefit from talking to my sister who is very caring and down to earth.  I was telling her some fantastic news today and she said that I had stars in my eyes and that I would be disappointed no matter what the outcome of this thing I was telling her about.  This is something that is very important for people with Bipolar to be aware of, slipping into the manic side of your emotional scale.  I only know a few ways to combat it, one of them is to meditate.  When I do this, I simply breathe and try to focus on literally nothing, not allow my mind to chatter or wander, just breathe and be.  I often sit in the lotus position for up to half an hour and it is incredibly soothing.  One of my problems is that I will get into this manic mood and get extremely restless and the first thing I want to do is to go out and spend money.  I almost don’t even care what I buy, I just want the excitement of going to some shopping area or store and pulling out my debit card and purchasing things I often will never use (books I will never read, etc.).  The other way I know how to deal with this problem is to get in touch with my Psychiatrist or Nurse/Therapist and explain that I may need an increase in my medication.  This is never an easy thing to do because medication can take a lot of the fun out of life.  One has to consider though how much they may regret the things they could do while manic or in psychosis and how much better it would be if they could head off the problem before it gets really bad.

I really feel for people with Schizophrenia at this point because a lot of people with this illness still hear voices no matter how much medication they may be on.  I wish I could spend more time on the topic, but I think I would just like to ask that anyone who reads this takes a moment to consider what people may be going through that have any kind of mental illness, and maybe even take things one step further and think about helping by volunteering, fundraising, or even just being a part of an organization like the Schizophrenia Society.  I have felt so good about the work that I have been doing because it happens on a regular basis that when I give talks for the Schizophrenia Society I run across people old and young that are either dealing with a mental health issue themselves that they don’t understand or have a family member or friend that needs help and I really like to think that I can make a difference.  I always used to think as a kid that if I could really make a difference in just one life my own life wouldn’t be wasted.  Have a great day and Happy Holidays!!

 

Midwinter 2015

 

These days of gentle longing feed the darkness in my soul

I wonder if it was my journey here that left me less than fully whole

 

My years of paper wanderings have given me one thing

A longing to be near you and to feel the joy that your love brings

 

Never in my yearning did I ever think that life could be

Less of myself and the cold cruel world and more of you and me

 

Poems gave me reasons to seek the love that my soul needs

I just never knew that loving someone grips your heart until it bleeds

 

When we met you were always near me, now you live so very far

It’s a long journey now to meet you but it soon becomes a voyage on a star

 

Love is never simple and life is almost never kind

And your perfect loving touch is something I thought I would never find

 

Run with me in the moonlight, let’s dance beneath darkened skies

Give me those stolen moments that gold or money doesn’t buy

 

Love me through the evening, love me when we awake

These precious vivid memories is something no hard times can ever take

 

I want to walk in cool grass barefoot with you and simply hold your hand

I want to take you far away from here and walk in the sun and sand

 

Before it is too late for us I want to share a child with you

You are my perfect dream girl and I never thought this could all come true

 

Somewhere in the deepest parts I keep something from you

It’s about that darkness that I spoke of that often makes me blue

 

I fear that I’m not good enough, that I’m destined to be alone

I’ve tried to bury it deep within me since my love for you has grown

 

To hear your voice and touch your hand is medicine for me

Hug me, hold me tightly now, let our love set the demon free

 

 

Leif Gregersen

December 10, 2015