Category Archives: battling depression

Cries of the Writing Addict

For the last five and a half years I have been averaging more than 500 words every day. A rough conservative estimate of that means 17,112,000 words. If words were cocaine, I’d be dead five times over by now.

But writing is not the same as cocaine. The addiction to it has very different effects. I divide my daily writing into at least two parts. The daily blog is itself, more often than not, 500-plus words. So, by itself it can satisfy my daily word-count. And I devote at least 500 words every day to my novel work in progress. So, that means I have produced well over 17 million words in reality. Probably closer to 34 million than to 17. That, of course, is far less than Stephen King wrote in the same period of time, but it is also far more than the average person writes.

And one thing that such an overdose of verbiage does to a writer, is to make him or her a better writer.

I have produced nine novels, between 35,000 and 50,000 words each, in the time since I retired from teaching and began writing and self-publishing in earnest. I have gotten only five-star reviews on the novels that have been read and reviewed. Granted, nobody who read and hated my books hated them passionately enough to leave a scathing review, so the 5-star average is just due to laziness on the part of the reading public. But it is marginally evidence that my storytelling is good.

Another effect I have experienced from my writing addiction is that it has made me increasingly metaphorically naked. My illustrations for this post reveal a little bit of that. It is not only that I like to write in the nude when I can, but that I have used my stories to grapple with everything that was once a deep, dark secret buried in the depths of me. Being sexually assaulted as a child was something that for many years I could never admit even to myself. Struggles with loneliness, depression, and self-hatred are also something I had kept buried until I needed them to tell stories with.

I finally worked up the courage to send a gift copy of Snow Babies to the girl I grew up with whose name I used for the main character, Valerie Clarke. Valerie loved the book and became an advocate for me with both the Belmond and Rowan libraries. I even admitted that the part about Valerie being the most beautiful girl ever born in Norwall, Iowa came from something the boys in our 5th and 6th grade classes at school all said about her. She told me she never knew we had said that back then. Ah, but that was probably an untruth too.

As addictions go, my addiction to fiction is probably a lot better thing to have than addictions to gambling, cocaine, wife-beating, or gummy bears. But it hasn’t made me any richer or healthier either. It has made me older, and possibly a little bit wiser.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, writing, writing humor

Life is Like a Bowl Full of Fruitcake Shards

There is lots of stuff to be down and blue and depressed about. The criminal president is going to be impeached, and then let off the hook. The climate is going to freeze us and boil us and deprive us of air. Wealthy bankers and insurance CEOs and billionaires have already deprived us of money and purchasing power. My health is poor. My heart may already be giving out. Not much to look forward to but a simple funeral where someone may cry while others will be glad I am gone.

But Batman is at the bus stop to stop boogeymen from arriving by bus. And Christmas is almost upon us, the season of fruitcakes and football in bowl games. And visions of sugarplums dance through their heads… and potential for gingerbread cookies and chocolate milk. So, put it all in a blender and drink it all down. Life is like fragments of fruitcake, drawing flies, but slaying any fly who takes a bite. It is toxic, but pretty. Soothing but sour. And only the colors, details, and arrangements ever change.

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Filed under battling depression

The Blacklight at the End of the Writing Tunnel

The link above is still capable of giving you a free copy of this e-book until midnight on Tuesday, November 12th, 2019. By all means, click on it and get yourself the free Kindle e-book.

I write this plea as my third free e-book promotion is half-way done. It is, as expected, failing miserably. As of this writing, the promotion using Facebook and Twitter has managed to give away six free books. And one of those is me grabbing a free e-book for my own free Kindle reader on my laptop. So, basically, I can’t give away copies of my own book for free.

But writing this book was not a matter of making myself famous or wealthy or even acknowledged as a good writer. Those are not the things I need. I wrote this story because I myself have been badly damaged by life. I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten. I had teenage bouts of depression that nearly made me end myself. My sex-life did not develop normally and led to chronic prostatitis and the precursor to “Priests’ disease”, a prostate gland the size of a grapefruit. Yes, it may ultimately end in prostate cancer. And then when I finally made a family for myself in my late middle years, I was besieged by depression again, this time not my own, but others in my family. So, in many ways, I have lived a sad life.

The novel itself is a means to self-healing and recording how I rebuilt myself using love, laughter, and artistry. The singing orphan boy wearing clown paint and singing only sad songs is a metaphor for me and my struggle. The clowns that haunt the main characters’ dreams are also a metaphor. I was always known as the laughing teacher, the one who joked around in class, and let laughing grow into a means of instruction in the English classroom. I used humor to make learning painless. I used it to take away many other kinds of pain as well. The book is about how a family can be healed by someone who has nothing, yet selflessly gives everything to make that family come together and be whole. It is a story, just as the introduction claims, about what love really means.

But the world is stacked against lying truth-tellers like me who make up stories only to heal themselves. Facebook stopped me from messaging everybody who is a Facebook friend whom I wanted to send the book link from Amazon. They called it spamming, which really means, “advertising something on Facebook without paying Facebook lots of money.” I discovered on Twitter that sending the link in DMs makes more of my followers stop following me than it makes followers click on the link to obtain a free book. Ah, disappointment again. At least I gave away three more books than I did on the last promotion.

So, this is like a blacklight, shining on my promotional inspiration. It only shows in ultraviolet the opposite of what I thought I would see. And it resigns me once again to be only ignored as a writer of novels. I suppose it is my proper place in life.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, battling depression, clowns, feeling sorry for myself, humor, novel, novel plans, Paffooney

Examining the Wood Grain

When I was a child I often had to fight on school nights to shut down my brain and get to sleep so that getting up the next morning wouldn’t be torture. The bedroom door was always left open and the single light in the upstairs hallway made it possible to get to the bathroom safely in the middle of the night. I would often find myself staring at the wood grain of the door with all its knots and spots and flowing wiggles. That low-light and wood-grain combination was enthralling.

And as I stared, my over-active imagination would find pictures there. There was a werewolf looking out of the wood grain at me with knotty eyes and wiggly fangs. Boy, that really helped me get to sleep.

But I could conjure other things too. I always longed to see Annette Funicello naked. I worked long and hard to make the naked lady in the corner of the door’s wood grained panel into Annette. It never truly worked. The naked lady had two grossly misshapen boobs that formed the central feature of her character, and that was nothing like perfect and sweet Annette from the Mickey Mouse Club.

But the point in all this is, a boy has to examine the wood grain of his life if he is going to develop into the kind of person he wants to be in the future. The things you see when you look into the knots and spots and flowing wiggles of a nearly infinite set of possibilities is limited only by your powers of imagination. There is truth to find there. There is often also deception. Sometimes the truth and the deception are the very same thing. But you have to follow the lines and make sense of the patterns.

Now, as I am old and have less to look forward to than I have to look back on, I am still looking at the wood grain. I am still looking at the patterns of my life and love and laughter. I try to trace the lines into fiction stories based on all things I have experienced in a life of humble service to the gods of education. And I have to look carefully. Is that a demon face on the left? Grinning at me with a crooked smile? Or is it a fox looking at me through a hole in the door. And on the right… Is that a hooded man standing next to a barber pole? Or is it a meadow lark reaching his stretched neck up to the top of the panel so that his bill is out of the picture at the apex of his reach?

You don’t see what I see? I fully understand. The wood grain of each person’s life is different. And not even his or her own interpretation can be called either “right” or “wrong”.

But the wood grains straight ahead are the pictures of the end of me. So, I must study the wood grains of the past to be sure of all the good that I have had, and I attempt to get it all down to hand onward to my children and the world to come. What else can I do? I see the patterns. Some are terrible… The werewolf of my bedroom door. Some are beautiful… Annette Funicello naked. And I get choose what they mean.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, dreaming, goofy thoughts, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Facing the Sunrise

Unable to get well enough to drive for Uber without risk, I now face economic and health uncertainties that could bring about the end of everything for me personally.

I have submitted an application for substitute teaching in the local school district. They still haven’t offered me a job, which I am clearly qualified for, and which I did for the same district successfully more than a decade ago. School is starting Monday. And even if they give me the job, there is no guarantee that I will be well enough to do it.

So, do I panic now? Or wait and panic next week? Or give up already?

That, of course, is not my way. I always approached teaching as a swashbuckling adventure. I may die in the attempt, either at the cruel hands of little school bunnies, or possibly behind the wheel of my rusty, trusty Uber car, But, either way, I will go down fighting with my pirate boots on.

So, I will sign on with Zorah the Sea Witch, joining her pirate crew, and I will set sail towards the sunrise of a new and potentially dangerous new day.

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Filed under battling depression, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, Pirates

Hurry Up and Worry, Murray!

Mary, the leader of the Pirates, with Squirrel Valerie and Invisible Captain Dettbarn

I am now writing every novel as if it will be the last one that I ever write. So it is with my current work-in-progress, When the Captain Came Calling. It is a story that comes before my best novel, Snow Babies, already written and published, but was actually formed in my head and in my libretto long before I began putting Snow Babies down on the page. It is a good novel, but not the best I have ever written. I am very near to completing it.

But, unfortunately, I am also very near to completing my whole life. Pain is a constant reminder that my health is so poor, that each new day could easily literally be my last.

The IRS is trying their best to help me on towards the grave.

While I am currently dealing with the tax burden from 2018, they dug up another unpaid bill from 2017, a late-payment penalty they forgot to tell me about last December. More than $200 dollars worth. I am flatter than broke.

So, I am forced to Uber drive once more. Yesterday and today I picked up fares again for the first time in the last ten months. And I am not really well enough to do it. The curse is heavy.

But this grumpy old man ain’t quite dead yet.

One more novel to finish, and maybe another one after that.’

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, commentary, humor, novel, novel writing, Paffooney

Kid Music

There are a lot of kids out there in the world who are gifted with musical talent. I find that searching them out and listening to them on YouTube is a valid way to cure… or at least curtail depression.

Wow. Energy, creativity, charm… cuteness! Kids possess a magic power to never understand when something is impossible. Harnessing that power can take you all the way to the moon and back.

If you think I turned to this subject because I was feeling down and depressed this morning, well, you’d be right. But am I still depressed after filling up on this sort of kid music?

Not a chance. The world is a better place now because of their sweet music.

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Filed under battling depression, healing, kids, music