Prior to becoming a writer of fiction and non-fiction, I was a classroom teacher (English), military news writer, a teacher of the deaf, and an instructional designer.
As you might guess from this information, I come from a family of teachers – brother, math; sister, special education; aunt, elementary education. I was the one to reluctantly break the tradition.
I only broke it because while I liked teaching quite a bit, I loved writing, and I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to do both at the same time. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids, and it wouldn’t be fair to me.
My path to writing non-fiction was an easy one. Writing business books and materials requires research, analysis, and a dedication to the central principle of this field – get to the point as quickly and clearly as possible. I can do this stuff standing on my head.
The road to writing fiction was much more torturous. To be blunt, I suffered from depression (with some light mania thrown in) the first 40 or so years of my life and, like so many, didn’t know it. I just assumed that everyone had those feelings of despair and hopelessness.
Eventually, I sought psychological help and got it in the form of the mood leveler, lithium. This medication got rid of the depression. I still remember the day when it kicked in because the color of the leaves and everything in my backyard suddenly got brighter and more vivid. I thought, “Oh, boy, now I can really get down to writing fiction.”
I tried and tried and tried and nothing came. You see, the problem with lithium (in my case) was that it cut off the extremes of emotion – no more highs, no more lows – and that left my imagination nothing to work with.
I was on lithium for 10 frustrating years. Then, the worst and best thing that ever happened to me came knocking on my door. Or on my head, to be more exact.
One winter day, I stood in the kitchen stirring a pot of oatmeal when, all of a sudden, the noise of a jet liner mixed with the roar of a freight train blasted from inside my head into my right ear. At the same time, I seemed to be standing ten feet above the stove and then next my face felt practically right in the oatmeal. It yo-yoed back and forth like that until I was able to lie down and let the vertigo pass.
Needless to say, this scared the crap out of me, and I got to the doctors. After several tests, they determined I had a “non-malignant acoustic neuroma” inside my head near my ear; in other words, a non-cancerous tumor. But, in those days, they had to crack my head open to confirm that diagnosis.
Lucky for me, they found no tumor at all, but a cyst that was affecting my ear and balance. They filled it up with fat (no jokes, please) from other part of my head and sent me home. While recovering, I fell into depression again – I couldn’t write, so I wasn’t making any money – and there was a lack of support in the home. I sought help again and found it in the mixed blessing of what was in those years the newest antidepressant – Prozac.
For me, the good news about Prozac was that within a week, it lifted my depression. I still vividly remember standing in the kitchen when a cartoon-like light bulb went off over my head, and I knew instantly I could write fiction (and draw, as well)! All I had to do was apply myself.
The bad news was the side effects – falling asleep during the day over and over again, unable to sleep at night, unable to stay awake long enough to write.
So, I got off Prozac and worked through several antidepressants until I arrived at one that worked – Lexapro. I was on that for years and eventually got off it altogether. As of this date, I’ve written six novels (and countless non-fiction books and articles) since I first took Prozac.
One thing I want to make you aware of – antidepressants will not make you creative so don’t go that route. What they do is lift the depression off the creativity you already had.