Writing As a Healing Journey - My Latest Adventure
We need to be doing things that sustain us, that make us feel good, that we are passionate about, that give our life meaning. For me, this is writing.
I know the same holds true for a lot of you. We are a talented bunch. With bipolar - when our lives are not otherwise coming apart at the seams - the muse is nearly always in. (You can check out my recent piece on memoir-writing here.)
Fortunately for me, back in New Zealand in the early eighties, fresh out of law school, I stumbled into a job in journalism. The irony, here, was that when I entered law school I had let go of my dream of becoming a writer. But it was my law degree that opened the door into journalism.
Now I was learning my craft and doing what I loved and getting paid for it.
Years later, in Australia, my brain got mugged. I recovered, but later slid into a long black hole. By the late nineties, back in the US, I was giving serious thought to taking the only way out. I turned to writing about my illness. It not only saved my life, it lit up the path to my recovery.
As I described it in my book, "Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder":
When I am in full flight, there is no time and space. The sun takes it's leave, booming music falls mute, and the steaming hot cup of tea by my side is stone cold when I pick it up a minute later.
Of all things, my book was a response to the situational depression I fell into after Election Day, 2004, with the reelection of George W Bush. As I later joked: I felt like Augustine of Hippo after Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome in 410 AD.
Focusing on the book filled me with a new sense of purpose, and by the end of the year I was breathing with my head above water. I finished the book in the spring of 2005 and it was published in the fall of 2006.
I did experience a bad depression in between. This came just as I started writing for HealthCentral in the fall of 2005. As it happened, the challenges of meeting new writing demands got me through a miserable month-and-a-half.
Likewise, it was my writing that helped me through a change in personal circumstances that suddenly found me in California nearly eight years ago.
A couple of years ago, I felt myself faced with a new set of challenges. For 13 years, I had written exclusively on my illness. I had reinvented myself several times along the way, but now I was running out of steam. At the time, as well as writing for HealthCentral, I was publishing my own blog and managing my own website.
I decided to drop the blog and neglect the website. This freed up my time to devote myself to my dream of becoming a novelist. I had a story in my head that wouldn’t let go.
I am under no delusions of fame and fortune. I have five unpublished novels from way back, and it’s best they remain that way. The wise course is to treat novel-writing as one would treat gardening or any other hobby, namely: The process is its own reward. Take delight in the here and now. The rest, should it eventuate, is a bonus.
Last night, I uploaded Chapter One to Wattpad. I plan to upload a chapter at a time to see what happens. I’m looking for comments and suggestions and guidance. Based on the feedback, I will figure out what to do next.
If you have time, I invite you to check out my first chapter here.
My novel may go nowhere, but - my oh my - how far I’ve come.
Please interpret this as encouragement to write. Just start anywhere - a verse, a journal entry, a comment here on HealthCentral. Away you go. Comments below ...