Becoming a better person through writing – and a better writer through personing
I’ve written professionally for pretty much my entire adult life – hell, before my adult life – but only in the last year or so does it feel like I’ve actually become anything close to good at it…
My bio ‘jokes’ that I have minor traits of Aspergers and had substance abuse problems in the past that accidentally led to me buying the apartment I write in – and while those things are true, they way they’re put is, well, irreverent to say the least.
After all, a bio is not place to go into the dark, harrowing details of one’s life – that’s what this blog is for…
But this is a blog that’s neither dark nor harrowing – much like my previous piece on realising I had depression and digging my way out of it – it’s yet another confessional in which I bare my soul, maybe it might even give you a deeper insight into me and my writing process, and hopefully we can still be friends when you’re done reading – although perhaps not, after I’ve told you this:
Until recently, I don’t think I’ve been an especially good friend to anyone.
I lived in America for a while, and as I’ve mentioned before, due to a myriad issues with work visas, I was unceremoniously deported. My life was there, my work, the woman I loved. I was locked out of the country, trapped in little Britain, which felt all the more smaller after having lived in New York and Los Angeles…
Thus began what became known as my ‘No-Fly List Tour’.
Based in London, I visited friends all around the country, from Brighton to Cardiff, Dublin to Edinburgh, and everywhere in between. But despite all those people opening their doors to me, letting me stay in their spare rooms or on their couches, it was only when I got to Liverpool, that I finally felt at close to being ‘at home’.
Even then, I was a guest.
It was only meant be for a month, working on a movie with a 28-day shoot schedule. I slept on a couch belonging to a guy I had barely met a handful of times, who welcomed me into his house, and his life, without a second thought.
Those 28 days past in a flash, those four weeks became six, then eight – and then he got engaged one night… and I needed somewhere else to stay.
I was half- wondering if I could still stay on their couch that night, while lazily Googling for a hotel, when another two people asked if I wanted to stay with them – no prompting, they just offered. I spent close to six months – or maybe even a year – living with them, practically rent-free, buying them food as and when they desired it.
At no point did they imply I owed them, nor did they ask for anything from me.
Eventually, I was offered a new place to live, closer to the centre of town, and I bid them farewell to move on to greener pastures. For the life of me, I can’t recall if I even so much as expressed gratitude for them literally saving me from staying in hotels, hostels, perhaps even being left homeless or squatting again.
That was seven years ago. and it was only last weekend that I realised I hadn’t thanked any of the people that had helped me survive in those first few rocky years back in the country.
Not to their faces, at least.
I had, in the most backwards and Aspergers of fashions, written about my gratitude in the novel Touch Sensitive. A novel that only got published through Kindle Press because of people like them (and you) voting for it. Which in retrospect, feels like it only adds insult to injury – them helping get a book published about my gratitude for them saving me from my own terrible life choices…
When it comes down to it, I think Touch Sensitive was the first novel I wrote that has ever been emotionally honest, let alone e-me-tionally honest. The lead character is so very much me, that my mother literally blushed her way through talking about the few scenes that are vaguely erotic in nature…
But it was writing from that point of honesty that I was able to realise how myopic and self-centred I’ve been for the best part of my life. Sure, when I’ve been in relationships, my partners have always taken precedence, what they want to do is always more important than my plans, because I’m wired so that when I love someone, I’m blissful just being in their presence. But that in and of itself is a kind of selfishness… When you deconstruct it down to a base level, why not go out of your way for someone you love, because you’re going to enjoy yourself sitting on the couch or kayaking up a mountain…
It took writing about my life, my pain, my loss, and those that saved me, to actually gain some level of humility. Over the last two years, my ego has been shredded, allowed to wither and die, and I’m all the better for it – but if it wasn’t for writing Touch Sensitive, I’m not sure I would have ever been able to get to that place.
As for why it took a year since the book has been out – and a year and a half since it was written – to actually thank them, that’s mostly down to my ineptitude… I wrote it and forgot it was even about them – wasn’t until I handed one of them a physical copy (whilst in the presence of alcohol) that made me realise that he was in the book, and I hadn’t said those words out loud – not just to him, but to anyone who had that level of impact to my life.
So for the first time in eight years, I expressed real gratitude.
Not only in simple thanks – I confessed that I owe them everything, let them know that they saved me, and that the simple kindnesses they shrugged off meant more than words could possibly exclaim.
And finally, thanks to writing about it – and the writing making me better at talking about it, they know how much they as people, and all that they’ve done, means to me.
And that’s the end of this tale of me being an inept human being for almost a decade.
But I’m getting better bit by bit, and that’s all any of us can hope to do.
Much love to you guys, and thank you for reading. I shall shut up and go back to flogging books now…