Overcoming Writer's Regret

Just a wannabe

On September 10, 2014 I reached the age of sixty-six. My interest in writing is over fifty years old. Has my opportunity to write a novel, a long held desire, gone with the winding down of my life? Have I put it off so long that now I cannot do it even if I try? Has my PTSD-infested brain deteriorated past the point of promise I once thought was mine?

Am I to be a serious writer or always and forever just a guy who likes to think about writing?

I've written hundreds of songs, dozens of poems, lots of short stories and essays, published several letters to the editor of my local newspaper, began a few novels ... but here I am, aging faster than light trapped in a wormhole, moving slower than an worm trapped in an ice cube, still struggling with the idea of taking my writing seriously, still lazy after all these years. If you have followed the postings on my blog you have read me whine about writing many times before. Most of that whining was about my general lack of productivity. My whining days are over. Well, maybe not completely over.  But I shall cease whining long enough to do some actual writing. 

Some things have changed for the better. I have an abundance of free time and a stable home environment, both provided by my sister and brother-in-law who let me live with them. I pay room and board but it is much less than renting an apartment and paying utilities. Their constant good company keeps me from reverting to the hermit's life that cost me dearly after PTSD led me to give up my construction industry administrative career in 2001. I don't even want to think about what my existence, or any hopes of writing, would be like without those two blessed people in my life. 

My PTSD demons are more or less fended off for now and, as long as I can avoid some of the things that therapy has not helped me overcome, my mind stays clear for fairly long periods of time. If I am frugal I can eat well, exercise regularly, entertain myself with photo walks and other low cost hobbies ... and still have time for writing.

My physical health is generally good, aided by medication which I hope to soon stop taking. My mental health is still improving, aided by my hard personal efforts, years of therapy and the love of my family. My brain is better, not perfect, but better. I accept that less-than-perfect brain as a slowly improving, more stable, and often functional resource that must be exploited whenever it is available.

There was a time, most of my lifetime, when publishing my writing in any format seemed almost impossible. Thankfully, that has changed. Self-publishing opportunities have become more sophisticated and more available. If I can’t make that work, I can continue publishing to my blog. Social media makes getting the word out about a self-publication much easier. The publishing gatekeepers can’t keep me out now. The Internet has provided a work-around.

On the negative side, throughout my youth and middle age I lived in a writer’s fantasy where my writing could sway millions and bring me wealth and fame. To my chagrin, in the real world, millions were not swayed, wealth and fame never materialized, apparently still awaiting the arrival of work I only did inside my head. 

My current reality requires me to acknowledge that some significant portion of my brain power has been locked away by forty years of undiagnosed PTSD, including eight years of significant mental shutdown. My mental illness stripped bare countless neuron connections in a brain that went from being overtaxed to underused. Just a few years ago I could not read a sentence without my mind wandering off, write a sentence that made proper sense, or have a calm, clear thought based in reason. I still suffer a lack of confidence in the meaning and usage of many words that once peppered my writing; an on-line thesaurus provides almost constant guidance. But I am better, much better. And further improvement is in my future; I feel certain of that.

But time is slipping away at an alarming rate. The hours and days seem long but the months and the years gorge themselves on my shrinking stack of tomorrows. And, at my age, given my personal and my family history, that stack might never have been very tall.

Those are my circumstances. They could improve. They could get worse. Knowing that, I venture ahead with the goal to make real a lifelong fantasy that sometimes lifted me and sometimes haunted me: being a writer of novels. And I state categorically I am taking my writing seriously. Soon, in this series of articles, I will make that clear. But first I must cleanse myself of the memories of my failed writing process from the past.

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