Friday, January 7, 2011

On Suicide, Personal Demons, and the Creative Urge

Yesterday on FriendFeed, I came across this Gawker article containing a suicide note by a programmer named Bill Zeller who killed himself. The demons that consumed him came from a fundamentalist upbringing and a childhood molestation. Programming promised an escape from the darkness at first. But eventually the darkness destroyed him, and he took his own life. I was saddened, and I had a kind of memento mori thought: there but for the vicissitudes of fate go I.

Then the author of the FriendFeed post in question linked to this blog post by Jolie O'Dell, a tech writer I've had something of a secret crush on for some time. Maybe it's the fact that she's beautiful and a geek too? Well, turns out she shared with Bill Zeller (an acquaintance of hers) a fundamentalist upbringing, a history of child abuse, an alcohol/drug problem, and a darkness that nearly consumed her. And she attempted suicide. Then fate brought her back, so she had to learn how to live. She made the decision to be creative. Now she's in love with her life. Reading that, I came to love her more. Even though, of course, I'm still this obscure unpublished writer up in Seattle, and we've never met...

I have my own history of abuse and depression. Back when I was an autistic child, I was the school bullies' most convenient target. My late father was a bum, and I didn't have that good a relationship with my stepfather. I could have been one of those school shooters in high school, had anybody thought of that in the early 1980s. For years I was obsessed with this wild and crazy manga I wanted to draw, but hated myself for not being able to learn to draw. That culminated in the proverbial midlife crisis around age 40 or so. I realized that if I had died before then, it would be as if I'd never existed. I decided to actually do something with my life.

In 2006, I started doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). My first attempts at it were lousy — but then, every writer worth reading knows that first drafts suck by definition. A frustrated would-be rocker since my teens, I decided to take up the guitar and take part in February Album Writing Month (FAWM). Together, they changed my life. Now, instead of alternating between fighting my personal demons and giving in to them, I channel them into prose and music. Eventually I'll finish my comics self-instruction so I can channel them through my art as well. Needless to say, I'm now writing that crazy story that's obsessed me so long. If my life is half over and I only half-lived the first half, I'm determined to live the rest of it with a vengeance.

Damn, it's good to be alive.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Figuring Out 2011

The new year is, as everybody knows, the most convenient time to set out new goals. For me, this year's set will be a bit different from the usual resolutions I've carried over from year to year.

This year, my goals are:
  1. To finish the five volumes of the serial novel I'm currently writing and serializing online, Chaos Angel Spanner, edit them, and get them published starting in ebook form. Currently, I'm approaching the end of Book 1 and the beginning of Book 2. (Note: it contains large amounts of political, social, and sexual incorrectness, so it's definitely not for everybody, least of all the squeamish.)
  2. To become good at playing one instrument. This year, I want to get back to playing the guitar. I'd better start in January, because Febrary Album Writing Month is just one month away.
  3. To become fairly fluent in one language that is not English. I've been struggling with French since I was 10, so that's the one I pick this year.
  4. To get back into good physical condition and get my body looking as good as my pretty face. That will take some prodding, and not just by my mother (who usually takes me to the gym with her). It will probably also require some changes in my diet.
  5. To read at least one book a week, and post my impressions here.
  6. To take at least one photograph a day starting today, and do a complete Project 365.
  7. To draw at least one picture a day and get my drawing skills at least back up to where they were in the mid''00s, when I pretty much stopped after discovering NaNoWriMo in 2006.
Classes I'll be taking this year:
  1. Web design. So far, the introductory class has introduced some tags (specifically tables) and CSS (starting with boxes and layouts) that I never learned even though I've been working with webpages and HTML on and off since the mid-1990s.
  2. Photography. A photographer friend is holding classes, and I'm taking them. The intermediate class will require that I get a tripod.
I hope to achieve all these goals this year. Previous years, I've been distracted from all my goals. This year, I believe I can pull them off.

Here goes...