To discourage a dream is to erase the potential of what could be. You never know what went into daring to strive for that one important goal, or what might be lost in giving up on it.
As I sit here on the one year anniversary of the release of Guitars and Cages, I’m reminded of how close it came to never being submitted. I’d been writing for years, little stories that sat in notebooks or on my computer, ones I co-wrote with friends and ones I’d worked on by myself and shared with only a handful of people. Being dyslexic, I’d been told many times over the course of my life that I should not pursue anything that involved writing, since I can’t spell well and struggled all through school to get a grasp on grammar, tenses and punctuation.
What sucked the most, though, was how much I loved reading and writing. Along with art and music, they were the things I loved the most in school and in life. I could spend quiet hours in my room losing myself in a book or writing poetry and never once feel alone or bored. My other love was animals, and I’d thought to be a marine biologist because I absolutely loved the ocean and sharks, but again, I was told over and over that I would never be able to pass the courses I needed to take, because I couldn’t learn to spell the words.
The sad part is, that proved true. Though I tried in college to take biology and loved the study of all different kinds of sciences, I quickly learned that with the points taken off on tests for not being able to spell the words, I would never graduate in any of those majors. It was disheartening to see the potential to spend my life doing something I loved diminished over and over by my inability to untangle letters. Add to it the fact that traveling the country with my band was quickly yanked off the table by my mother and I soon found myself wasting my 20s doing things I came to hate.
Looking back, I realize how stupid I was to let her convince me that she could take me to court and have them declare that I had to be under her directive until I was 21, but she was a social worker, and for most of my teens she accused me of doing drugs simply because I disliked conversation and loved being up in my attic alone with my art and music. Funny thing about that was that I never even smoked a joint until l was 18. I just loved creating things, and it was easier to create when no one was talking your ear off or peppering you with questions.
I was a fearless kid growing up. Diving off waterfalls, doing the mile and a half ocean swim, jumping off the tops of slides, tying ropes to trees and leaping off the roof of the house like Tarzan, but inside I felt inferior, because every test was a struggle and sometimes I felt like the butt of some cosmic joke when my mom would say “haven’t I told you a million times you don’t spell it like that?”
Yeah, she had, she still makes comments about how I never learned how to spell surprise since I would always spell it with a z. I remember that I’d get nervous and second guess, that I’d sometimes even talk myself out of the right answer or know the answer was ‘b’ and write ‘d’ instead. Then I got to go home and listen to them ask how I could screw it up in school when I had it right, verbally, when they’d quiz me at home. But verbally was easier, I could speak the right answer and not completely fuck it up.
Writing became as much a frustration as a joy, and for a while, I didn’t bother with anything longer than a song. Less words to screw up, and most of them I only shared with the band, we were all learning how to write lyrics so we were pretty much in the same boat.
Years later I got involved in writing as part of an online game, and for the first time in many years I was creating characters and designing the worlds in which they lived in. I was even sharing my stories with others in the group, grateful when they didn’t pick on me too much for butchering spellings or using close to, but not quite, the right word to describe something.
They were the ones who gave me the courage to seek out a writing workshop, and later, to take the bits and pieces of roleplays and flesh them out into the story that became Guitars and Cages. I have to admit, taking that story and sharing it on gayauthors.org was scary as hell. I expected to get laughed at, ignored, or worse, told to go back and take remedial English. Instead, I met people who actually offered to beta read and edit for me, who read my story and left comments, who offered advice, and who came to care about what was going to happen next and the characters themselves.
It was awe inspiring. Because of the people I met I actually found myself wanting to write more, wanting to share my stories with more people, and feeling, for the first time since I was a little kid, like I could actually achieve my childhood dream of being an actual published author.
Four books later and I am still in awe of the fact that I get to wake up each morning and do something I love. After working in jails, in hog confinements, in bars and kitchens, newspaper offices and retail merchandising, it’s nice to be able to do something that brings me joy and doesn’t leave me stressed out and wanting to pop a Xanax at the end of the day.
Looking back, I know how easy it would have been to give up on the dream completely, to not even bother doing it for fun, to have spent my spare time on hobbies that might have been ‘easier’ for me to manage, or ‘more suitable.’ But the only thing that has ever suited me was being creative and I can’t wait to see what I come up with next. I hope you’ll enjoy it with me.