It all started when I was a child and I found a bird, injured and dying, in my front yard. It must have flown into the window or something. I remember getting a shoe box and a blanket – or maybe it was a towel – and putting the bird in there, and doing whatever I could as a young boy to care for it, hoping to try to heal it, to somehow nurse it back to health. I got it some water. I grabbed some Cheerios from the cupboard. I went out into the yard to look for worms.
It was during this time that I wrote my first poem. It was the quality you would expect from a little boy – basically a prayer of sorts asking it to get well and fly again. It rhymed.
The bird died, of course, and I buried it in my back yard, put a headstone on the grave to properly mark it.
But that poem opened up a doorway for me.
Growing up, my favorite books to read were those Choose Your Own Adventure books, and the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. So it was off those that I began writing my own short stories.
I would do what I believe every writer does: Something would happen in my day, and my brain would go, “What If?” and from there an idea would be born, and I would just run with it.
I entered a few contests in elementary school, these “Create Your Own Book” projects where I got to write the story, draw the illustrations to go with it, and even had to make the cover and binding, using cardboard, glue, staples, whatever was available. One book was called “Demon Racer”, about some dude who goes crazy trying to outrun his personal demons (apparently more symbolic than I was old enough to realize at the time, not to mention slightly prophetic for me), and the other was called “Fangs Of Death,” which was oddly enough a spin-off of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
Both times, my teachers were simultaneously impressed with my creativity and talent for writing, as well as concerned that a kid my age could express such violence.
But that’s where it began. I discovered a natural ability to write and tell stories, and these stories apparently caused an effect in the reader, and so it gave me a sense of power and control over my life.
In my teens, I began the “See a movie, love it, find out it was based on a book, then read the book” journey so many of us go through. It’s how I discovered Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton.
And from there, my writing progressed.
Same deal, same formula: Life experience + Overactive Imagination = Basis For Pretty Badass Story. I was an outcast who listened to heavy metal who came from a dysfunctional home to a school that still had bullies and girlfriends who cheated, so you can probably guess the stories I wrote.
Unfortunately, also in my teens, I discovered the joys of drugs and alcohol, and went pretty far down that path – over 20 years down that path. I would still come up with ideas for stories – many of which, now that I’m sober, I’m finally getting around to.
Only now, I have quite a bit of “Life Experience” with which to draw on – and, given my life in recovery, a rather spiritual perspective on everything.
So that’s basically where I’m coming from as a writer, as an artist, as a musician.
As a reader, not only have I been transported to different worlds – and of course entertained, I’ve been inspired to heal and to grow, given insights into life and human nature that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten, had my eyes opened to other perspectives, other ideas, deeper understandings of myself and of others. I’ve been shown that other people have gone through similar experiences that tested, terrified, and traumatized them, and THEY came out alive, stronger, and wiser. I’ve learned that everything – EVERYTHING – we go through in life is so that we can help someone else.
I’ve learned in my recovery that the opposite of addiction is connection, and vulnerability is the doorway to healing.
And isn’t that what we do when we write (or draw or make music)? Or read someone else’s writing?
It all goes back to that first silly poem I wrote for a broken and dying bird in my front yard: Writing – creation of ANY kind – isn’t just a form of telepathy, it’s a form of prayer, reaching out across the great divide to find out that we are not alone.
So I guess I’m just trying to pay all of this forward with my own work.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.