Stephen King wrote an excellent book on writing, aptly titled On Writing. I’ll hope he’ll forgive me for using the same title for this blog post. While Stephen’s book was primarily about being a writer, this post is about why and how I write.
I haven’t worked in over eight years. My road to unemployment didn’t happen overnight, though. It was a long, slow, excruciatingly painful descent. But it finally happened. The anxiety and confusion hit hard and agoraphobia took hold and I went on disability, never to return to work again…at least not yet.
During the first few years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder I struggled more than I needed to. I struggled more because I was struggling. Struggling to gain normalcy in my life, rather than accepting my limitations and riding them out as best I could. Of course, riding them out sounds easy, but it’s damn hard. Impossible at times.
The reason I bring all this up is because of one simple sentence I read back in those days. It was one of the rare moments I was able to read. We have a coffee table book called Men Together. It has interviews and pictures of dozens of gay couples. There’s also one called Women Together, which we also own. Both are beautifully done. Inside this book is an interview with a couple in which one of them has bipolar disorder. The one line I remember from this book is this:
He owns his own business because he believes he is unemployable.
That’s it. It took me three paragraphs for me to get around to that one sentence. It was necessary because of the importance of that message. Out of the entire book, that one innocuous sentence is all I remember. I knew then and there that working for myself was going to be the direction I was going to need to go. But what should I do?
Searching for the Right Path
First I started learning how to do web design. It fried my circuits, but I was able to learn HTML and more. The fear settled in, however when I realized that being a web designer required one to also be a marketing manager. You had to sell yourself – your skills. I was excited about the idea for a long time, but finally realized it wasn’t going to happen. In addition to selling oneself, there are also the many, many deadlines to reach. I never know when a panic attack is going to hit, but I learned quickly that having a deadline was the easiest way to get there.
Later I decided I want to be a Unitarian Universalist minister. I knew it my heart it was my true calling. And maybe it was at one time in my life when I didn’t know it, but not today. Getting a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree and then going through the process of being ordained was daunting, but I gave it my best shot over and over again. Each semester I’d go back to school and each semester I’d fail. Finally, both my psychiatrist and my therapist convinced me to stop. We talked about other ideas, but we came to the conclusion that, for now, that I just make the best of it without going to school or working.
Moving forward. One day, about a year ago, a friend mentioned a friend of hers who was making a living writing erotica novels. She suggested it was something I should consider. I did consider it and came to the conclusion that it was a great idea. I researched it, found out what was involved, what readers and publishers expected and got down to the business of creating an outline. I decided I wanted something more than just erotica, though. I wanted to write erotica with well-developed characters and storylines. I love mystery novels, so maybe an erotic mystery, not some cheap pulp fiction. I don’t read erotica, so maybe those type of novels already exists, but I was assuming they didn’t.
As I was creating my first outline something started to happen. I started liking my cast of characters. Then, I started loving my cast. I came to the conclusion that they deserved more than to just be mixed up in some kind erotica. No, I wanted something better for them. That’s when I decided to take the erotica out. Oh, there will probably be plenty of sex, but having erotic scenes is far different than an erotic novel. So now I’m writing about Mitch, and Trent, and Josie, and Seth, and Warren and many more who are all involved in a murder case. I love them all.
Balance and Consistancy
Now I have a work day. I have a schedule that I try to follow each day. In the mornings I do laundry and chores around the house and at noon I begin writing. My workday ends at five o’clock. I stick with this as best I can, but some days I’m too depressed and some I’m too manic. I get frustrated on those days, but just do the best I can. There’s no deadline so it enables me to take the time away when I absolutely need to. But I do try to write on even my worse days. It may come out gibberish, but hell, I write plenty of gibberish on my best days.
Earlier I said that I struggle with deadlines. They can send me in to a panic, and I’m well aware there are plenty of deadlines when publishing a book. Lots of them, actually. For now, I’m working at my own pace. I have deadlines that are flexible. If I’m lucky enough to be accepted by an agent or publishing house, I will deal with deadlines then. For now, for the first time in my life, I love my job. Maybe someday I will even be able to get off disability. That would be a memorable event.