Writing Again. My Story
I fell in love with writing when I was 11. Before then I hated writing. It was boring, it was mundane, it was mandatory. I wrote for school, and hated every minute of it.
Then I started reading fantasy. Terry Brooks’ The Sword Shannara. I fell in love. I couldn’t stop reading. I read the whole series, then read David Eddings, Stephen Lawhead, J.R.R Tolkien, Patricia McKillips… the list goes on. And I spent many years reading them.
First I started reading, but I started to love writing when I sat down and decided to write a fight sequence. I was eleven, and I have no evidence (probably a good thing) as to whether it was good or not. It probably wasn’t, but I was proud of it.
The scene had no context, no back story, just fighting. It was perfect for a kid.
For whatever reason my dad came home for lunch that day (I was home schooled, in case you were wondering why I knew that he was home), and asked to see what I had been working on. I showed him my work, and waited to hear his review.
I was expecting some constructive criticism. It’s “there” not “their”, i before e, put a period here and a semicolon there. But he didn’t. No criticism, no advice. He looked it over and asked me which book I had copied it from.
I thought he was accusing me of plagiarism. It wasn’t the first time I had copied something out of a book to quickly get out of a writing assignment. But I told him that I hadn’t copied it, I wrote it, by myself.
All he said was “wow. Good job, I thought you had copied it from a book.”
That may not seem like high praise, but coming from my dad, that meant a lot. To my eleven-year-old mind that was the equivalent of him saying “son, you’re the best freakin’ writer in the world!”.
So I spent the next year writing my first novel.
It was crap.
90 pages of pure, 12-year-old crap. I still have the book, I can’t read it. It’s just so bad. But I wrote it, and I loved writing it, and it’s a part of my past that I love so much.
I didn’t even think about editing it. I just started working on the prequel (a sequel didn’t really work with this story). While I was working on that I started writing another story that I wanted to write.
I got about halfway through the prequel to my first novel, then my life changed.
Two very important things happened.
- I went to high school. I had been home schooled my whole life, then I went to high school. This was the first thing.
- I began to struggle with depression.
I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know how to cope with it. It wasn’t overwhelming most of the time, when I was with my friends. But I was alone, it was debilitating.
I didn’t want to admit that I had depression. Back then you didn’t talk about that sort of thing. People with depression were just downers who didn’t want to be happy. It was hormone changes. It was regular teenage behavior. At that time it was laughable to think that depression was a sickness that needed treatment, instead we thought of it as something that you just smiled your way through. The sun’ll come out . . .
I couldn’t write anymore. I tried over and over and over again to put pen to paper, to pound out words on the keyboard. I was totally, and inexplicably blank. No more stories flowed through me. The words never came. The only thing that I succeeded in writing was extraordinarily depressing journal entries questioning my emotions, asking God to save me from my misery, to forgive me for sins that I must have committed. Because sinners feel miserable all the time like this right? Right?
Depression continued to plague me, and I managed to carry on. I got through high school. I served a mission for my church. Graduated from college. 70% of the time I was quite content, happy even. But that 30% when I was down, was truly, terrifyingly awful.
I found no solace in the fact that I was pretty good at writing academic papers, theses, and that writing seemed to come pretty naturally in my academic life.
I acquired some critical thinking skills. I analyzed others works. I edited papers, gave them stylistic advice, helped my wife rewrite many papers. But still, I couldn’t overcome my depression-induced creative writing block.
I suppose that there was no way I could have known that my depression was causing my writers block. All I could know is that writing had turned from a joyous and easy process, into a laborious, painstaking, exercise in feeling inadequate.
How could it be that I easily wrote well over 150 pages before I was 14, and yet couldn’t make it 3 paragraphs without feeling exhausted and self-conscious. No matter what I wrote, it was never good enough. Everything I wrote was embarrassing, childish, and naive. Even if other people told me that it was good.
I’ll cut to the chase, to spare you any more details about my frail psyche.
I finally reached the point in my life where I realized that if I didn’t admit that I had a problem and gotten help, I may not have made another year. After a debilitating panic attack landed me in the hospital, alone, I got some help.
After a year of anti-depressants that, thankfully, worked. I’m writing again.
I’ve started writing a novel. I’ve had a good stretch so far, and I plan on finishing this one, good or bad. Something has changed in the last year. I can write again. The inspiration is there. The words are flowing again, a little slower and more thought-out than when I was 11 writing fight scenes with no development, but they are flowing again. For this, and for the many inspiring articles I have seen on Medium I am immensely grateful.
I hope that this will be the first of many articles to come. I also hope that my article has been helpful to somebody out there.
I also am immensely grateful and surprised if you have read this far. If you liked it click the heart at the bottom of the page, any support would be appreciated.
P.S. If you’re struggling with depression or writers block, get some help. Who knows, if you fix one you might just fix the other. . . ;)