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 Even though, of course, I'm still this obscure unpublished writer up in Seattle, and we've never met...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.


  1. Wow. I believe you just turned a tragedy into a bouquet of hope, and even community, for the next lonely traveler through hell to find.

  2. I do the best I can. One thing we have to realize is how much we need each other.