When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was ten, my older brother was 18.That’s when I began writing, that’s also when he landed in a metal institution, diagnosed with schizophrenic. He was morbidly obese and severely bullied in Jr. High and High School, and had no friends. As a result of his obesity and mental illness, he had terrible body odor and was repulsive to be around. He was also inappropriate sexually in that he’d try to kiss female family members. I couldn’t have friends over, and as I result I didn’t have friends outside of the family until I was in Jr. High School myself. I couldn’t talk about it because I was so ashamed of being related to him that I didn’t want to draw attention to it, so I wrote. I wrote to express the feelings of rejection I felt in life because I had a brother who was damaged. I was young and didn’t understand what was happening. I couldn’t talk to my parents about him, they had their own heartache, and I wouldn’t talk to my cousins or other family, out of fear. I was afraid of becoming like him, fat, socially isolated, and insane. If I talked about him something inside of me would start to surface, so I kept a lid on it, except when writing. I wrote, and when I did, I felt safe to say anything I wanted to. My writing world became my sanctuary, where I felt free to be who I was, my authentic self. To this day, I feel the same about writing but now I’ve grown and developed into a woman who can relate to friends and am happily married with a great job that I love. Along with rescuing dogs, writing is my passion, a gift of Grace, that came to me when I most needed reprieve in my life.
Thank-you for sharing your story! So, do you think that by writing you overcame your fears and came to understand your brother as well as the stigma of his mental disorder?
You’re welcome. I think writing helped me face a lot of fears but I can’t say it was writing per se that helped me understand my brother and mental illness, but rather life, experience. And, the fact that I’m a Nurse Practitioner and have had to take care of people with mental illness. When it’s out there, not so close to home, it’s easier to see. Experience became my teacher, and thankfully as I aged, my compassion grew. Eventually, I came to love my brother and understand him, as much as anyone can understand what is outside of their immediate experience. I can’t know what it is to live in the soul of a schizophrenic, but I do know that the little girl, who started writing at around ten years old, grew up physically and emotionally. Writing helps to clarify and expand on what lessons I’ve been taught by my teacher, life.
Are there any topics or genres that are you don’t like to write about or write in, thus become off-limits? Why or why not?
I don’t really have anything I won’t write about. If I’m into a storyline and something comes up that is necessary for the story to move forward it would probably be included. As far as genres, I feel that a good story is a good story and I’m really not opposed to any genre. I’m open. That feels good to me, to be open and receptive to what may come.
As a nurse practitioner with a family as well as animal rescuer, you must be busy! When and how do you find time to write? Is there a particular time of the day (or night) you seem to write better?
I work part-time as an NP, which allows me plenty of time to write. I am also on the tail end of a long bout with Lyme Disease, gotten from a rescue dog who had ticks on her. I have to pace myself and do really good time management so I don’t relapse or dive back into chronic fatigue that is incapacitating. I pace myself with animal rescue or volunteer activity and have redirected a lot of my energy into promoting the book since the profits are going to the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County, CA where I live. When I write, it’s in the morning, when my energy level is best. My day usually starts to wind down late afternoon. I put in what time I can and just take my time over time. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap,
was a six year process.
Yes, I agree that time management is key for writing! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers or those who don’t think they have the time to write?
I think the most significant things I can say for any writer is this, a writer writes. Don’t worry about time, amount or accomplishing anything, just get your butt in the chair and vomit out the words into sentences. Spit it out, whether for ten minutes or ten hours. If you don’t sit in that chair and put the words on the page, the process isn’t happening. What’s in the thought, I don’t have time to write? Look at it, look at the nature of a thought, it isn’t real, isn’t what’s happening. All a writer needs to do is tell their head, their thoughts to shut up, and sit down and write. The amount of time we spend thinking we can’t achieve something can be the time we spend doing it. Don’t get hung up on the amount of time, it’s the act, putting the word on the page that gives a writer the sense of being involved in writing, in the process, and that’s all a writer does.
So true! What you just said reminded me of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). A person write 50,000 words in 30 days. Do you think that would be a great way to jumpstart a writing career?
It can I suppose, but that would remain to be seen. If you were to sit down a hundred writers and ask each of them what jumpstarted your writing career, the answers would probably vary. There may be repeating themes but they would all be individual. Some write because it’s recommended for therapy, keep a journal.
Others write because it’s as natural as breathing and they’re in their own skin while writing, for others it may be an inspiration, another a writing class and prompt, and sure, for some an idea of writing 50, 000 words in 30 days. Why not? What motivates, what gives rise to moving that body to the chair to start writing, what overcomes the resistant inertia some writers struggle with, what douses out the screaming insecurities in ones head that prevents the action, what causes one to overcome the fear of rejection or not being good enough, can these things be overcome and jumpstarted by a prompt of a number of words in a certain time period? The answer is yes, if it does. But isn’t that true for a hundred other things we can both think of to get us going, to move the body to the chair and bang away at the keys?
So, to conclude, I want to ask you, my readers a question or two. First, if you write, what inspires you and your writing? Two, when do you write?