“There is something delicious about Writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” (Beatrix Potter, English writer)
Writing comes naturally to me. Since I was a very young boy, I found the written word made it easy to express myself. As I grew, any training I received in School only helped to strengthen my relationship with print media. My entire post-secondary experience was to further my command of the written word. I was educated as a journalist. I studied television and radio broadcasting to expand my reach. I worked in many forms of media but I always returned to my first love, writing. As the internet formed, I could access venues unavailable to me before. I began blogging almost immediately after my Mother’s death in 2010. I had maintained profiles on Facebook and other social media, but I failed to use them efficiently. Little by little, my blog grew from the ashes. What started out as weak, and intentionally simple, soon began to find a sense of form and structure as I played and developed. For almost a decade, I have diligently posted. I do not write my blog because I am looking for money. You will never see my work monetized. I have created my own biography, in a sense. Anyone can go back through my history, at least what I have documented over the last 10 years. There is little I have not discussed in one manner or another. Writing is, for me, a daily exercise, a cathartic workout anytime my fingers pound the keys. You can almost feel the cleansing as each letter finds its place. As far back as I can remember, print (in one form or another) was my passion, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Like God and comic books, the connection has never failed. I am, after all, a writer.
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” (Émile Zola, French playwright)
Strathroy District Collegiate Institute (SDCI) sucked the life out of me for almost 5 years. I suppose high school will do that. Of all the people I knew and all the activities I took part in, there are few fond memories held by either. I realize now that I was pretty much like any other teenager. I struggled with my identity, I struggled with the social game. I had no idea my world functioned through the eyes of bipolar disorder. This is completely beside the point. Although I played sports like any good breeder would, and participated in heterosexual rites of passage, for the most part I really just wanted to be left alone. My disability often ravaged me, even though it would be more than a decade before I received proper treatment. I tried my best to function and that usually meant projects I could do by myself. It’s not that I’m not a team player, I just find people very noisy and distracting. I function so much better in the silence. It has always been this way for me. I did all the normal things someone my age did in high school. I joined the band, standing at the back of each rehearsal with a string bass in one hand and solitude in the other. I gave football and volleyball and badminton a good try. I did the theatre arts scene, performing in several productions before graduation. I loved and hated English class. The study of writing and style were my favourite lessons. Shakespeare was my friend. I impressed my English teacher with my interest. Although this instructor was a bitch, I excelled in this area, so much so that she introduced me to the librarian and my journey began. Writing always just seemed to fit me, even when I was a kid. I won poetry contests and flourished as an amateur journalist. I dabbled just to see and working on the school newspaper just made sense to me.
I joined the staff of the SDCEye approaching mid-term in my freshman year. The monthly newsletter/newspaper was basic and somewhat redundant, but the idea of being involved in its publication activated something within me. I had been constantly exploring this medium and this venue seemed like a good place to start evolving my craft. At first, I was assigned the sports page, responsible for interviews and such but eventually I was offered something even more exciting for me. My tenure as publisher and editor started with my sophomore year. I was put in charge of almost everything involving the formation of the publication. I not only shaped the essence of the paper but was also responsible for the printing and distribution. I was assignment editor, reporter and publisher all in one very committed young man. I was trained in layout, design and consistency, always under the watchful eye of the editor-in-chief, Mr. Bahnmiller. I instantly fell in love with the process and like a sponge, I absorbed as much information and its application as I possibly could. The few years in which I practiced my art may have been simplistic and rather amateurish, yet I still discovered something wonderful in the midst of it all. Like stepping out on the yellow brick road, I had to follow where that road would lead me. I carried my new sense of purpose in the words that were written and the form they had taken. Like a harbinger, it pointed to my future and I finally realized who and what I wanted to be.
As I progressed in my studies, opportunity tried to lead me away. I expanded my base, formally studying journalism for print, in radio and on television. I even branched out in later years and worked exclusively in radio for a time. I had the voice and the looks for it. No matter what the field was, my writing ability always seemed to point me in that direction. I excelled at writing copy and advertising seemed a natural fit, but only to others it would seem. I always kept writing even when my view shifted. Over the decades, I published in religious magazines, in local newspapers and major publications. It’s strange, when my first partner died in 1995, I stopped writing altogether but when my Mother died in 2010, it inspired me to start again. For the length of those 15 years of silence, I rarely created anything outside of my head. I think holding it all in affected my ability to express myself in terms beyond grief and futility. My ability to write did not pass away but it certainly went into hibernation. I always managed to find a way to not create, to not be inspired. All the pain was all that remained. Rather than using my command of the English language, I fell quiet. For years, it really seemed like there was nothing left for this teller of tales. I still floated in the otherland but I just couldn’t find a way to write about it.
I posted my first blog, “Lemon Cupcakes with Icing Sugar Sprinkles” (http://simplekel.blogspot.ca/2010/05/may-28th-2010.html), on May 28th, 2010.
I touched on music and memories and the way things used to be. I didn’t know it at the time but the grief I felt over my Mother’s death reactivated something within me. As I reached out to my world for sanity, I dove head first into what would turn out to be my pure pleasure. Rather than simply posting once in awhile, I had to post 4 or 5 or 6 times each week. I managed to do this for exactly one year. Borrowed Knowledge did not find an agonizing death, rather it ended with the transformation into a blog much more reasonable to handle. Posting every day interfered too much with work and my home life but I didn’t burn out. I excelled and picked up speed. The first year of my blogging really changed the way I viewed media delivery. I suppose that while many would not consider me old school journalism, I most certainly was brought up in that line of thinking. Blogging became a vehicle, a mechanism with its own reward. After 5 more years of blogging, Surviving God, ran out of steam for me. The confines of the thesis restricted my ability to fully express myself. On January 1st, 2017, I began a new blog, unrestricted by anything but my imagination. This far in and it remains a delight to write on a weekly basis. Writing can often be an escape, so Otherland seemed like the perfect tag to write under. Day after day, I never grow tired of putting my thoughts onto paper (so to speak). It is still all that it ever has been, cathartic, structured and relevant. I rely on the purge to make it through my day, every day.
“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” (Flannery O'Connor, American essayist)
Sometimes the Path we are to follow in life is hidden, we are unable to find the direction we are supposed to take. Sometimes the path is clear and focused, leaving little room to wonder or question if you are going the right way. For most of us, setting out on the correct course is a mundane experience, usually determined by circumstance rather than some unique event or school of thought. In no way am I trying to convey that God comes down and makes the decision for us, pushing us through supernatural means to follow His path versus our own. I guess I still believe that the way we travel is irrelevant, it is the lessons we are to learn as we move forward that should resonate the most. Everyone’s path looks different but all the things we are supposed to absorb are usually the same. It’s not the highway that keeps you going, it’s the scenery.
I never questioned what I was supposed to be. I just didn’t know it when I came across it. It was there all along, I suppose. For both my educational and professional life, I have followed a few paths at the same time. I specialized in media rather than focusing on my writing. I think in high school I understood my calling. As I was later inundated with higher learning, I drifted away from my natural proclivity. I spent years, decades, paying attention to what would make me more money and I forgot about what really makes me happy. There is nothing more satisfying (including sex) than when I open myself to the flow. All the words just come to me these days. I don’t have to think about anything but starting, the rest exudes, sometimes as a dribble and sometimes like a heavy stream. It always takes me away. In a sense, putting “pen to paper” is always a trip to my otherland. Sometimes the visit is quick and sometimes it lasts, but either way it most certainly is a destination I never should have left to begin with. No matter the topic and no matter the style, it all makes sense to me now. It may be a little late, but I should have stayed the course, and followed the path well knowing, every river, every highway teaches something new.
“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly pay check, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” (Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter)
This blog is the last post under the heading Otherland. The topic has evaporated into the rest of my work. My writing will remain but under a new directive, a new blog title. Kelifornication will launch come late spring 2020. I could use a fresh start. I recently had a severe bought of illness, which disabled me for over 2 weeks. Let’s just say I spent more time with my face in a toilet bowl than I did sculpting and reporting my state to the world. During its reign, I had a significant amount of time to just lie thinking. It is therein that I found myself going forward with a new directive. Apparently, I have been targeting the wrong demographic. Instead of trying to teach the lessons my life has put before me to younger, less evolved creatures, it might be interesting to explore a new venue. As my 60th birthday rapidly approaches, I am reminded that it is out there waiting (although it is not as close as it would seem). I remain young at heart, despite the breaking and cracking and abuse this life has thrown on me. Perhaps instead of merely looking back, it might be productive to look forward as well. A maturity has found me wanting. Aging and the tenants of that place, was always just beyond my scope and outside my terrain. I see it now. Clarity is supposed to come with the act of growing older, like a parasite, it hangs there, quite often unseen. Unleash the hounds.