I recently wrote a blog post on my freelance site about why I think books and writing are awesome. But there is an even deeper story to my love of language and the written word. I decided to include that here on my creative works site. Consider this my character backstory:
For as long as I can remember, words and books have been very important to me. Reading and writing are my favorite hobbies and what I do professionally; they have also saved my life time and time again. More recently, the printed Word played a big role in saving my soul and giving me eternal life!
As a child, I lived with a stepfather who was both emotionally and physically abusive to me and my mother. I spent a lot of time as a child grounded for no good reason, sitting alone in my bedroom. To deal with the pain and darkness I often felt, I confided in books. My stepfather took away my toys and forbade me to watch television, but he was illiterate and therefore did not understand the power of the written word. I could read books as a means of escape and write my feelings down without suffering the repercussions for what I had to say.
By the time I was a teenager and we were finally free of that monster, I had developed a love of reading and writing that is still with me to this day. But I also developed depression and a dark personality. So those were the kind of books that spoke to me. I read horror fiction and gothic poetry, and in those stories I found protagonists I could relate to: outsiders—usually the quiet nerdy ones who are just a bit off—forced to face their fears and defeat the monsters in their lives. As strange as it may sound to some, the horror genre helped me get through some tough times in my life.
As a young adult, I got more into nonfiction. Even though I was lost and living in several overlapping circles of sin, deep down I was still the introverted nerd who preferred books over people. When my friends were watching football or chasing women, I was often reading and writing. I didn’t partake in certain activities that my buddies did, but I certainly engaged in my share of partying, even when I was alone. For a good twenty years, I battled addiction, depression, and anxiety as if that was normal life, because it was normal to me. The way I dealt with my demons was to write it all down on paper, turning my pain into songs, poems, and stories. Without that outlet, I highly doubt I would have lived through it all.
Somewhere in all this mess, I met an amazing woman named Renée. Our paths crossed unexpectedly, seemingly at random, though now I know exactly Who brought us together. One of my earliest memories of hanging out with Renée was when she spotted a pile of books in the corner of my room and asked me about them. I tried to play it off like, “Oh, it’s just some books, nothing I’m really interested in.” I figured here’s a pretty girl giving me the time of day—how uncool would it be to start talking about books?
As it turned out, not only was Renée a deep-down nerd like me, but she was also a Christian. I was surprised, considering we met more or less through partying, but I respected her for it. I considered myself agnostic at the time, convinced that there is no way to know if God exists or not. The closer Renée and I got, however, the more interested I became in learning about her beliefs. It was an intellectual curiosity at first. Soon enough, we were reading the Bible together regularly.
Meanwhile, I was determined to find success as a self-published author. The books I wrote were mostly horror and surrealism because those were the languages that I was most fluent in. I thought the best way to connect with others through my work was to tell dark stories that people who are hurting could relate to. Maybe my words could help readers get through hard times just like so many books had done for me over the years.
But it didn’t quite work out like that. I found it very difficult to market my weird work, especially on a limited budget, and even harder to make connections in a me-me-me type of world. There was one group of authors on Twitter that I did make friends with and felt pretty close to (shout out to the #MandoMafia!). Everyone else basically ignored me, even when I reached out to them personally. What’s worse was the discrimination—half of the submission opportunities rejected me before ever reading my work. It seems in this day and age, many publishers and magazines are not interested in anything written by straight white males. A lot of my material actually speaks for marginalized people, but the “woke” world would never know that because in the name of equality and inclusiveness, they have basically shut me out.
All of this left me disheartened and disillusioned. I wrote nothing for months and disappeared from social media. Nobody noticed, not my friends on Twitter, not even my family. Not one person contacted me to ask where I’d been, anything new coming out, is everything okay—none of that. It was as if I never existed. This sent me into a deep depression, despite everything else in my life going pretty well. But as an artist, which had become a very large part of my identity, I felt completely lost. I finally found my place in life through words and books, and nobody cared.
My depression really started to get to me until one day when I finally broke down, got on my knees, and with tears in my eyes asked God to help me find my way. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and promised that I would live my life for Him the best way I knew how. I opened my heart to the Holy Spirit and asked Him to guide me into the future, knowing that He would take me as I am and never forsake me or shut me out.
As a newborn babe in Christ, I don’t know where my new path will take me. But as a lifelong lover of language and words, I consider this the beginning of a book—the introduction to the story of my new life. And since God is the author of this one, I have faith that it will have a great ending!