I miss writing. It’s funny, because I write all the time, every day nearly, for work. Yet I miss writing.
I miss that feeling of a spark to a fire, the combustion of creativity. If you’ve never had it, well, you probably miss it too. If you’ve had it and it’s been a while, you can’t help but miss it. One never feels as alive, as a creator, as when they create often and well.
The trouble with working for a living is, well, it’s work. People will say, “if you love what you do, it ain’t work.” Sure, I love writing as a job. Beats the shit out of ringing things in on a cash register, playing receptionist on a phone, banging out deadlines for captioned television, and all the other things I’ve ever done.
But I’m not writing for me.
Photo by Drew Coffmann
Today I aborted work long enough to write for myself when I was inspired, and in a rare show of devotion, I stuck with it long enough to actually post it on my blog. If you saw how many articles I have squirrelled away under a saved title of “IN PROGRESS: ____________” then you’d be impressed I followed through and posted it too.
There once was a time on this blog that I banged out a post daily. It was, without a doubt, the best period of writing in my life. Not just in the act of it, but I think in the quality and diversity of writing too. I long for that kind of steadfast inspiration, daily do-or-die mentality about being creative and getting things done.
I’m 12-13 years older than I was then. And much more employed. Back in those halcyon creative days of yore, I was out of work, getting laid, and percolating with what would become a blow-out with my mental state in the coming months.
Whatever was wrong with me or my life, I had the good sense to write daily.
When I’m not writing like that – which is to say the last decade-plus of my life – there’s really something off with me. I feel it to my core. I don’t complete my thoughts, don’t feel like I’m in the moment, or celebrate the details that make life so meaningful.
Writing is all about taking a magnifying glass to moments, the world, yourself. It’s about peeling back layers until the truth comes out.
And if you’re a writer and you’re not writing, not for yourself and the truth and the mysteries of life around you, then it’s like being a scuba diver without turning the oxygen tank on full. If so, look out. You may not be long for this world.
When I look at my life – as “amazing” as it is to others – and I look at what’s wrong in it, then it’s all about truths and being honest with myself. It’s about failing to live completely in the moment in a way that really peels it all back.
Writing copiously could change that. But writing more would mean piling on top of everything else I do in my life and further reducing my downtime. That’s a hard commitment to make, especially when in the midst of travelling the world for five years.
But maybe I’m on the verge of an era when I can better manage my time. Maybe the idea of taking my trusty laptop onto the rooftop terrace of my Sicilian apartment (where I head to this week) and writing long into the night will feel like anything but work. Maybe there I’ll come into who I really am and what I should really be, not just as a traveller but as a writer in my new, older, wiser self.
Because when I remember what it was like to write every day and the feeling of being on top of it all and dialled into the world, man, it’s like nothing else.
People like Stephen King will tell you writing’s just a muscle and you’ve got to flex it to be using it, and if you ain’t flexing, then you get what you get.
When I think about that crisp, sharp, aware feeling of writing constantly, I can’t help but to think there’s no place in the world that might be better for rediscovering that feeling than when travelling in Italy.
I leave for Bari on Tuesday and then Sicily on Friday. I’m on the cusp of something I’ve dreamt of for 25 years. Italy. The writer, food lover, photographer – She’s going to Italy. For 11 weeks.
What a thing.
Yeah. I guess it might be okay to press pause a bit more there. Who says I need to write an opus daily, huh? Just a snippet. All those snippets of moments and feelings in a storybook place like Italy and Sicilia. Now that’s an idea.
So I’ve not been blogging on purpose. Didn’t have it in me. For two years. Yeah, I know. You can fake it if you wanna, but I don’t phone it in.
What you don’t know is, the more annoyed or passionate I’ve been of late, say the last six months, the more I’ve been writing, and never doing anything with, new posts.
So it occurs to me that I’m, you know, one read/edit and a click away from having a shiny new blog post. Yeah! Something to ACTUALLY read, for you, the reader-person.
Doesn’t that just blow your fucking mind? A click away, man. A click!
But that’s the thing that’s been missing — the desire to write for public consumption. Or even write at all.
Lately, though, I’ve actually stopped what I was doing just to write something. Write a thing that doesn’t even pay me money! Lemme tell you, friendly reader: That blows my fucking mind.
You got your writers who’ll tell ya that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’d agree with that. I can write six ways to Sunday all day long, but it doesn’t mean it’s got anything worth saying. And sometimes the saying of it is just a thing that keeps you hemmed into an already-troubled mindset. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
You wanna yammer on because there’s “no such thing” as writer’s block, or wallow in your you-ness, you knock yourself out. I know when I’m writing crap I wouldn’t even line a birdcage with. Let’s call 2012 and 2013 my “Bird Sanctuary Years,” okay? The Epic Saga of When the Crap-Writing Canary-Cage-Liner Sings.
But I got out and dialed up my creativity for photography and cooking, things a brain can pause for. Pause, a nice thing to use. Lovely. Pause. We should all pause a little but more, but petting zoos should have unicorn rides and shoulds don’t mean shit. Creativity is creativity and a writer doesn’t always need to write, I discovered. But now’s a different thing entirely.
So here’s the deal. I’m back. Not in a blogging-daily type incarnation, but then who knows? Maybe. I used to do the EB White write-500-words-a-day and it mostly wound up on here when it went well. Far be it for me to eliminate anything.
But wait! There’s more!
There’s something in this for me too. I’m writing ebooks. Not just one. I have a very crafty scheme in mind for taking this whole entire blog and giving you a radical reinvention of it in ebook form. This one will remain as it is, but I’ll have my fun. I need to get you all riled up about it. All in due time, reader. The grand tease thing. I’m shameless, friend. I’ll admit it. But I’ll make it worth your while too. Found my mojo, after all.
Thus it’s time for me to resume blogging for public consumption. I had my break. It was groovy. I have several things kicking around I can fire up and finish off. Longform stuff too.
I have mounting anger about the stupid-ass bullshit in the world and a raging hard-on to tell you why. I want to write. I’m twitchy. I’m ranty. I’m occasionally funny. I’m freeing up time in my life to take back writing and to own my voice.
Giving myself permission to just not write was what made me eventually write for the hell of it. It’s like rediscovering your golf-swing. You can’t just order it on Amazon. It’ll find ya when it finds ya.
So… I said Hey, reader.
In case you missed them, I have blogged lately… three times this year in larger posts I wrote and stuck on Medium. There was this about Philip Seymour Hoffman that got widely read and was an Editor’s Choice, and then there All The Fucks I Give, my thoughts on people who self-censor and the act thereof, which also was an Editor’s Choice, and finally this on how Twitter Doesn’t Suck, you make it suck.)
Wow, so this posting got long. It should probably be separated. I just don’t have the emotional-editorial prowess for that, so I’ll leave it all jumbled together. I’m sure as the days and weeks move on, I’ll become more cemented in what I believe about Derek’s legacy in the blogging world, but, for now, I’m less academic and more the fumbling friend amazed at the outpouring of interest in a loved, lost voice on the local scene, to say the least.
I wrote last week that, in blogging, Derek would “…have told his story. A ripple in the pond. That’s all most writers really want to make — a ripple in the pond.”
Some kinda ripple, Derek. Well done, friend.
Words, words, words
I think, in the scheme of Derek’s life work, in all he tried to share with others, that the legacy being created through this worldwide exposure to what blogging can DO for a man, his life, his legacy, and the memory others get to have of him, that Derek’s changing the world’s perception of blogging.
Maybe I’m too close to it.
Maybe I know the man, his work, and maybe I want this to be bigger than it is, but as someone who’s watched the press all her life and knows what the public thinks and feels, this is a rare, rare moment when a really honest, simple, powerful statement is getting heard by the whole world.
And it’s not a world leader. It’s not some political activist dying for a cause. It’s not a celebrity known the world over.
It’s just a statement from a good Canadian man. A father of two, a guy who married his soul mate and died still madly in love with her. It’s the guy we all knew we could call with a technical problem that needed urgent solving, or who we KNEW had just happened to take a secret perfectly-timed picture of us at that event where he just had a camera. He was that guy.
And somehow, who he was, who he loved, and the life he led, that was all captured in a mere 1,500 words. His perfect 1,500 words.
Then the world read it and, in 1,500 words, realised what was truly important in life, what can all disappear in a moment.
Like Derek wrote, “As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn’t make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.”
In a moment, we’re all gone forever. Then what?
So what’s his legacy, then? Super-nice local legend loved by those who were at the cusp of all the tech/web/music developments for 20+ years? Great writer? Spokesman for cancer, early testing, and living out loud?
But I think Derek’s legacy is bigger, with more global implications.
Derek Miller took time in his dying days to write a post that, if we’re lucky, changes the way we’ve been thinking about language, communication, social media, writing, and connection.
For Derek, blogging (and podcasting) was truth, education, community, sharing, connecting, activism, camaraderie, and putting his stamp on the world. He did it all. He stamped good.
There are a lot of really shitty blogs out there. Content farms, traffic-whores. A lot of bad blogs.
Derek was never guilty of bad blogging.
He wasn’t a “writing filler” kinda guy. He didn’t have some self-imposed turnstile of copy-quota where he “had” to blog every day. He was a writer who was compelled to share a statement, a truth, or anything, but he certainly didn’t blog so we the audience had something to read, or the PR companies with schwag gifts had reason to mailing-list him.
Derek K. Miller always blogged because he had something to say. Something smart, well-said, perfectly edited, often insightful, and never sensationalised.
Somewhere along the road in the last five years, blogging became about expected numbers, certain amounts one had to get done on a weekly basis. Some “experts” claim 3-6 posts is the “perfect” amount. They’ll tell you a “good word count,” and that Derek K. Miller’s The Last Post was 900 words too long. They’ll show you how to juice it up with “search-engine optimising,” and sex it up with a graphic or two — oh, and break it up with headings, gotta do that too.
But they don’t tell you how to have heart in your writing.
They don’t tell you that your readers deserve significant content. They don’t tell you that creativity, quality, honesty, and originality count.
Somewhere, somehow, blogging and social media became about having a social resumé, hawking your wares, getting connected, getting laid, everything someone like Derek K. Miller never bothered manipulating it for.
I’m a writin’ romantic — a passionate idealist about language, writing, and communication.
I believe that blogging is the BEST thing to ever happen to writing.
And I think blogging is the WORST thing to ever happen to writing.
But, for every site concerned primarily with driving traffic, and not worried about enriching your life, there’s a blog quietly churning out good content week-in, week-out, just like The Penmachine did.
I believe a quality blog only needs one posting a week.
If it’s great, then one will do. If it sucks, then none will do.
I believe the sparse, simple, shocking truth behind Derek Miller’s brilliant The Last Post serves as a reminder of what economy of language, a simple desire to state the facts, and opening yourself up to the world can provoke in all manner of people.
We all want to be remembered. We want a legacy.
Blogging: Whoop! There it is
Not stupid blogging. Not bad blogging. Not blogging where you’re talking about ordering a muffin.
Blog about what that muffin means to you — what do you remember when you’re eating it, what was the most emotional muffin you ever ate and why, what happened right before that muffin was served, how did it smell, how did it taste, and does the emotional overload that triggered that muffin return to you now and then when you’re enjoying one, and if so, what’s that like?
A muffin, does it matter to the world at large? No, but your experiences that determine how you feel about a particular muffin, those experiences might.
And that’s a sort of ridiculous-but-clear example of blogging is — a chance for every person to have a real, true, digital record of their understated lives. Their commentary, opinions, injustices, whatever. It’s a record.
We’ve lived in a world where publishing, media, communication have almost always been in the hands of those with money and power.
For the first time ever, we can control our words.
We can make sure others can read them, even strangers in far away lands.
AdAge magazine called Derek Miller’s The Last Post an example of the “democratization of publishing.” Yeah, okay. Sure: Cheap-n-easy self-publishing.
Personal blogging is powerful, not only for you but for the people who get to read it… and maybe even those you leave behind.
We’re told not to “tell” too much. Yeah, all this not-sharing stuff seems to be doing a LOT of good for society.
Oh, no one will ever understand what you’re enduring. No one will get that.
Derek Miller blogged about wearing diapers, yet millions are hanging off his extensive cancer-living archives this week.
You know who doesn’t know what people want to read? THEM. The “experts.”
You know what I want to read?
I want to read people who write about things that leave them feeling uneasy when they hit publish — or proud, or desperate to see what the comments are because that post mighta been pushing it or so angry while writing that clicking “publish” felt like they’d just flushed the toilet on all the shit that had ’em feeling that way.
I want to read about people experiencing life — in all its varieties.
If you CARE what I think, I probably don’t want to read you. If you think, while writing, “how should I say this to best elicit a reaction?” then I likely don’t want to read you.
If you write because you need to write, because you feel like you have something on your chest and you’re hoping writing will help sort it out, or because you just can’t NOT share THAT observation you had earlier today?
Then you’re the kind of blogger I wish everyone was.
Empowered by Blogging
Blogging is a tool we have for breaking down barriers.
We can connect, teach each other, expose injustices, examine life, do whatever the hell we want.
No longer are we under the thumb of industry when it comes to distributing our creations.
As artists, writers, musicians — if an audience is all we require, then we have the whole world before us. We have 100% artistic control. We have instantaneous access to publication and audiences. We are not at the mercy of industry. Industry is at the mercy of us, and the tide is turning.
Back in 1990 was a movie I always thought was ahead of its time on some of the issues (though dated now), Pump Up the Volume, about Christian Slater as a pirate radio DJ named Happy Harry Hard-on, aka Chuck U. Farley. The premise of all his angsty railing against society was pretty simple come movie’s end: You have a voice. Use it.
In the end, if Derek Miller’s legacy is that people realise they can use the voice they have, I can’t think of a better one. Nothing broke my heart more than to know Derek had lost his speaking voice for much of his remaining weeks in life, and to think his “eternal” voice is heard around the world now… well, it blows me away.
You have a voice. Use it. Leave a legacy of your own choosing.
And, more importantly, consider today what you’d write in your obituary for tomorrow, and take stock now of what you need to change to have that obituary reflect a life you wish you’d have been living — and an emptier bucket list.
Blogging: It’s good mental lifting. Writin’ does a soul good. Check it out, kids.
(Photos: Derek K. Miller — from Facebook profile shots he’s used.)
I didn’t know him well. I had the good/bad luck of befriending him when he had less than a year left to live. We were in touch online for a few months before that, but we didn’t even meet until a year ago this week. After, I only saw him twice more. He invited me to his 41st birthday at his home, where I met his family, as well as his incredible Living Wake celebration of life in March of this year.
It’s with great sadness that I know now that Derek was friends with friends of my brother, more than 20 years ago, but we never met until 2010.
There are a lot of people I “know” today about as well as I knew Derek, but few could have me this devastated upon news of their death.
Did you see Harry Potter, the first movie? Remember the opening sequence when Dumbledore stands on Harry’s street, and plucks all the light from all the streetlamps, and the world falls dark?
I sorta felt like that when I woke yesterday and heard the news that Derek had passed. Few lights will ever shine as brightly as that man. Not for me.
On the page, erudite and expressive, profound yet simple when commenting upon the world around him, and in person, the warmest, kindest face you could ever see, with eyes that just drank you in because he was THAT interested in everything you had to say.
He was one of those rare people I consider a “hundred-percenter”. He absolutely gave 100% of himself to you, to his work, to his family, to his blog, to life. He did everything seemingly effortlessly, with grace and cool that people just don’t have anymore… even as cancer ravaged him, even to his final days.
In the end, I got to experience him the way the world did, electronically. Cancer’s not exactly awesome for one’s social calendar, so Derek wasn’t getting around much in recent months. His blog was all we got. But what a blog — an affirmation of life being worth living, death not being so scary, and how important little things are — from Diet Cherry Coke to walking the dog.
I knew he was dying, so I read his blog as he wrote it, but now I have years and years of archives to read, and I’m thankful his friends will be keeping that temple of Derek alive online for us all to experience.
Derek found me. He started following me on Twitter. I checked him out. There, in his bio, was “stage IV colorectal cancer.”
Me and cancer, we go back. My immediate reaction? I wasn’t gonna make the mistake of befriending this guy just so he could go and die on me.
And then I read his content.
I thought about it. Pretty fascinating guy. And, “it’s only Twitter.”
Followed him back. We engaged. He read my blog, commented regularly, and the exchange and mutual respect grew. Pretty standard digital story.
Then the Northern Voice conference came along in May, 2010, and I had to do a speech. The auditorium was packed with a lot more people than I’d imagined would come out, and my nerves were at Puke-Alert Level 3.
They tell you one of the public speaking tricks is to find the face of the kindest, most interested, most riveted, gracious-looking person in the auditorium, and look to them when you need someone to buoy you.
Instead of my friends, I made eye contact with Derek K. Miller and felt safe. I felt really, really safe, I let my guard down, and I had one hell of a successful talk. I don’t know if I could’ve had that same vulnerability without lucking into someone who was so incredibly responsive and supportive in the audience, like Derek was for me. He had this little smile throughout the speech, never broke eye contact for the whole half-hour, and now, whenever I think of Derek, I see him sitting left of centre in the front of that audience, his legs crossed, leaning on the armrest, his camera in his lap.
But, because the advanced stage of cancer left me unable to experience more tangibly the gift of his in-person friendship, the part of me that will mourn Derek the most is Me the Writer.
Even seasoned writers will tell you that ripping the Band-aid off and exposing your gaping wounds on the page is a tough, tough business. So many of us get wrapped up in the drama of it, dressing up the experience and making it so much more, or else totally missing the ballpark with this clinical detachment that “tells” and doesn’t show what’s going on. In those weak and affected retellings we lose the truth of the experience, and it’s nailing the truth that makes for great writing.
Derek, though, he had this incredible balance, an economy of language, and it just worked so well. His scientific predilections made him irrepressibly truthful, always, and frankly straight about it, but his heart infused his passion in his words, and his boyish wonder of the world would be inescapably obvious. Few writers can offer that combination of heart, passion, matter-of-factness, and childlike wonder, and Miller brought it all with a bang. His voice was rare.
And he wasn’t afraid. He had no pride getting in the way of telling us he was wearing diapers at the end, or in explaining physicality of the disease itself. He didn’t play the sympathy card. He simply wrote.
He wrote for the purest reason a man can write — to share his story because he knows he’s not alone in the human condition, and even if he would never meet that face on the other side of the world, he’d have told his story. A ripple in the pond. That’s all most writers really want to make — a ripple in the pond.
Derek K. Miller had one of the earliest online presences in this country. He had a legendary history on the web. He kept a weblog for almost as long as they’ve been around — 14 years now.
He wrote because he simply had to write.
He’s the kind of person I want to be when I grow up.
And he doesn’t exist anymore.
We, the Vancouver community, will forever remember you, Derek. You used the internet in the way we dream the whole world would — to teach, inspire, communicate, shed truth, entertain, build community, record posterity, and, most of all, just plain make friends.
Another good man’s done and gone, too fucking soon. Rest in peace.
**** **** **** ****
My Dream For Derek:
I love that Derek’s The Last Post is causing people to stop and rethink life around the world — from Roger Ebert all the way down to a housewife sobbing as she reads it on her iPhone in the WalMart parking lot (like a friend back east told me she did). He was that good a writer. He deserves the audience, even if he’s gone.
It’s his ripple in the pond, and I hope it ripples forever.
I would love a publisher to take his work and make it into book form. I would buy that book. I would gift that book.
I would love his amazing daughters and wife to receive royalties on his life’s work.
If Derek’s work could have a life after him, and provide a life for his daughters, it would be a beautiful, wonderful thing to behold.
The world would be a far, far better place if it were men like Derek that we all aspired to be, not celebrities.
Derek K. Miller, a man for the ages.
PS: The photo’s caption isn’t displaying for some reason. It’s a self-portrait taken in the photo booth at Derek’s Living Wake, about 6 weeks before his death. He chose it as his last Facebook profile avatar, and I think it was Derek’s funny way of toasting his friends for being a part of his life. ‘Cos he’s that kinda guy.
Sometimes all it takes to get back into writing is to sit down and do it.
Got a comment this morning that I promptly deleted, since I’m just getting too old for that shit.
If you want to call me out objectively on anything I’ve written, step right up, my friend. Let’s have a beer and chew that chat, all right? I’m down with dissent, constructive criticism, and I don’t shy away from debating anyone I know. I call it like I see it ‘cos I’m too lazy to keep up with lies.
Love dissent and debate, in the real world. Online, who wants to type that much? Still, I try to engage.
But when the extent of your entire comment is “you’re rambling lately,” the delete bin is for you. I used to be one of these “Hey, I’ll publish every comment!” types who purport to be encouraging dialogue, but then I realised that, um, no, it’s just encouraging stupidity.
The older I get, the more I think they might’ve been onto something with eugenics. I’m very aware that, while the internet is giving much-needed voices the airplay they deserve, it’s also broadcasting some real fuckin’ tools.
Here’s the deal. If you go around commenting on posts all the time, and you don’t have a blog, and you’re always antagonistic and IN YO FACE BEYOTCH about it, then just shut the hell up. Really. Do some self-medicating, find a mountaintop guru for advice — I don’t care what you do, but just find a purpose in life, ‘cos it’s just sad, sad, sad to see what some folk get reduced to in life… commenter.
Thank god for the nice people who comment to share stories and are awesome and open and rah-rah-rah, because they’re the reason we keep pushing “publish.”
Them’s the new house rules. No more troll comments published. Dissent? Okay. Be smart and respectful and tell me I’m wronger than than wrong, I’m down with that.
Otherwise, hey, don’t like the writing? Don’t read it. Don’t like my opinions? There’s the door. There’s only 100 million blogs in the world, I’m sure you can find some carbon-copy of you out there somewhere. Good luck lookin’, Skippy.
Life’s short, man. I’m living it as me, writing what I want to say, and that’s the way the blogging cookie crumbles. If I gave a fuck about pleasing anyone in specific, I’d be checking my Google Analytics more than once a month. And probably swearing a LOT less.
Instead, I write or I don’t.
Sometimes the writing blows monkey chunks. Welcome to the “I’m a real person” thingie. Creativity isn’t a tap you turn on and it rushes out. We’re lucky to tame the whirlwind once in a storm season. Now and then: Brilliance. The rest of the time? It’s why sailboats come with motors. Sometimes you’re gonna coast a while.
And that’s blogging. A less-than-selective writing process.
You want consistency? Read a book.
You want real-time accuracy? Snapshots of a person’s life in weekly digestible bits, largely a little less censored than they ought to be, flaws hanging out for the world to see? Read a blog.
You want to be the loser that just writes negative comments without anything of value, lacking useful critiques? Don’t.
As much as many bloggers are self-involved twats, there are a lot of bloggers are ripping off Band-aids most publishers wouldn’t pay to publish. They’re being brutally real about their lives, thoughts, and worldviews.
Bloggers started this whole firestorm of openness and communication that we haven’t figured out how to use for the betterment of mankind yet — Twitter, Facebook updates, blogs, video blogging. It was all born because some dude began journaling on the web a couple decades ago.
Maybe blogging hasn’t definitively changed the world yet, maybe there are lots of twats making it look ugly to others, but I still believe in the power of blogging, the quest for individual truths, the dynamism of millions of voices saying what needs to be said if only for a dozen other people.
And when people who might be timid otherwise finally have the courage to click “publish” and start their blogs, they don’t need spineless hacks pissing on their parade.
There’s a growing call to remove “ANONYMOUS” comment ability. Having one’s name on their vitriol doesn’t make it any more valid, just not as despicable. Maybe one day I’ll remove anonymity here, too.
In the meantime, I blog on the things I think are interesting, important, or that I’m just obsessing about.
Because that’s what blogging’s for. We now return you to your scheduled silence.
I thank those of you who’ve read me (inexplicably) for years, who’ve shared your experiences and opinions. You’re awesome.
Come Saturday I’ll be giving a talk at Vancouver’s “Mental Health Camp,” where the goal is to get people thinking about stigmas attached to a wide range of mental conditions — from ADHD and depression through to eating disorders and compulsions all the way to harder-core afflictions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Me, I’ll be talking specifically on two things — one, I’ll give a 45-minute session on blogging for therapy in my solo “Ripping the Scab Off through Blogging” talk, and two, I’ll be on a panel discussing how each of us 4 panelists have used social media to share our psychological struggles and what it’s meant for us.
This posting is sort of to just touch on both of those, in support of the event, and to let you know what’s going down.
I’ll be honest: Yeah, I’m not particularly wild about talking at something called “Mental Health Camp.” There is stigma, yeah. Damn right there is.
I also know that if there’s anyone who can overcome such stigma, I’m probably at the front of the line.
I’ve spent much of the last five years already writing about myself in very open ways as I take the journey of going from She Who Was Very Unhappy to this much more interesting and fun-to-be-with version of self I’m excavating from under years of neglect.
Writing about myself has been a huge part in how I’ve been able to accept where I was, where I needed to be, and what it would take to get there.
By learning how to write in an open way while still hanging on to details that weren’t really necessary to share, I’ve managed to be open yet keep some of my struggles inside, too. Snapshots, that’s what y’all get.
In homage to one of the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, I call the writing technique “surfacing” and it’s pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of perspective. Shifting that perspective ever so slightly creates a whole new reward from the writing.
I’ll be talking about it in detail on Saturday, and don’t want to blow my hand by writing all about it here and now.
The talk will include a lot more than that, though.
I’ll look at the differences between journal-writing and blogging, and point out all the pros and cons of turning to the web for an audience. I’ll tell you who should be blogging more openly (almost everyone) and who shouldn’t (and there are some).
I’ll tell you the top 10 reasons I think anyone willing to blog should be willing to be more personal, and why blogging for therapy just makes sense from a societal point of view — both from solidarity and healing perspectives.
I’ll also share the prices I’ve paid while attempting to cash in* on living the revealed life. It’s not something one should enter with the foolish notion that “I’ll write it and they’ll read it.” There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot that can play out well. There’s much to consider.
Later, I’ll be on a panel with three friends — all of whom have had far, far harder mental health journeys than I have — discussing how we’ve been “out” about our lives and the prices/rewards it’s cost/yielded us.
In both situations, I’ll briefly outline the facts: I lived with mild depression for most of my life. I’ve learned that, when it comes to natural depression FOR ME, it’s controlled with diet and exercise. I have indeed been medicated on a few occasions, both for “situational depression” as well as ADHD.
I’m on no meds now. It’s not a prize I’ve won for being a Good Mental Health Patient. It’s just that I’ve found a way to mostly regulate my chemistry. When I was ON meds and began eating well and exercising, what WAS a good level of meds went sideways fast as I started building my own seratonin and dopamine.
Do NOT fuck with meds just because I’ve been able to get off mine. It’s NOT about the meds, it’s about what’s safe for you. Talk to doctors!
But all this is to say I’ve been to my mental health hell with a chemical depression that took two years of medication to regulate back to normal. I’ve been on the verge of suicidal with a desperate cry for professional help in the past, all while being an intelligent person who felt trapped in this chemical mood I couldn’t shake for months and months.
Before that, I had to overcome a head injury. Since the chemical depression, I’ve had to learn to adjust to an adult-ADHD diagnosis and how it makes me see the world.
So, I’ve had some experiences, and they’re probably more common to the general populace than my colleagues’ are, so I’m happy I can provide a “mental health light” perspective to balance it out.
Being on the other side now, I remember how hard it was to be in the chokehold the disease of depression had on me. I never thought I would escape. Suicide seemed like a smart plan.
Here, now, and looking back, it does shock me how putting my head down and keeping on keeping on, fighting the fight, eventually paid off and has brought me to a better sense of self than I’ve ever known before. Yeah, I’m proud of the stuff I accomplished.
The journey was long and strange, and I feel I’m still on it and I’ll always have to be aware that depression can find me again, but having this kind of self-awareness and openness, as much as it’s been problematic at times, is something I feel that will probably help me navigate whatever stormy waters might one day roll my way again.
The truth shall set you free?
Yeah. Maybe. Let’s talk.
People in Vancouver can see these talks, among many other good ones, for a lowly $10 at the door. There are plenty of tickets, and, yes, it’ll be air conditioned in the heatwave. Wahoo. There’s a chance it’ll be streaming live, and if so, I’ll be posting that URL for my followers on Twitter, and you should check there Saturday morning, in case I forget to post it here.