When I was about 14, I fell in love with the idea of being a writer. A year or two earlier I had discovered science fiction and found that genre mind expanding to the point of it being akin to a religious experience. It came at a time of great change in my life–puberty arrived, God was exiled and I began to think for myself.
I believe my motivation to write was to give to others the sort of joy reading brought to me. My favorite fantasy and sci-fi authors were Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simack, Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. van Vogt and Ray Bradbury. One of the last sci-fi books I read before my reading habits changed permanently was The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. When I began reading it at age 16, before my senior year in high school, it was most unsatisfying. From its cover it appeared to be sci-fi but it really wasn’t. It was not the blood and thunder outer space adventure that I had hoped for. Vonnegut’s satire and irony were lost on me. I read about 50 pages and then shelved it. However, two summers later after my freshman year of college I revisited it and I was hooked. Later that same summer I read Vladimir Nabokov’s great satirical novel Lolita. Hooked again.
During my junior year, in preparation for my career, I changed my major from Psych to English Lit. However, I found that Psych’s easy A’s were not so predictable in English Lit, and so I changed my major back. Nevertheless, I got a minor in English and that gave me a fairly good introduction to both the classics and to modern fiction. James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Hemingway, Faulkner and Dostoyevsky were all required reading. I also received a grounding in modern poetry and leaned in that direction for a time. I saw myself as a writer of satirical fiction or perhaps as a poet full of all the the contemporary angst and alienation of say, W. H. Auden or Rainer Rilke. Or perhaps I would write lyrical, mystical poems like Yeats. For a while I was in love with Walt Whitman’s emotionalism and prose-like verse. During college, and for a few years after, I wrote poems and off and on I worked on a short story based on an incident from my life.
However, gradually reality set in and the dream of being a writer faded. I settled on a career in mental health. Though, at times, I still toyed with the idea of applying to a newspaper and trying a career in journalism. I had always been a voracious reader of newspapers and magazines like Time and The Saturday Review. Before I settled on Psych I had thought about majoring in Journalism. I had enjoyed writing for my high school paper, but I found the thought of a fast paced, pressured job with deadlines rather intimidating.
And so by my mid-50s all I had to show for my “career” in writing was two newspaper op-ed essays that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, two dozen poems that absolutely nobody besides myself had ever seen, two more or less finished short stories and all of eight pages toward a novel. I had always seen myself as a writer of fiction, but I found it incredibly difficult to even write tales based on my own experiences much less construct a world completely out of my imagination. I had never envisioned myself as a writer of non-fiction.
But as the subtitile of one of my books says: “But God Had a Better Idea.” In 1998, I began teaching a class on coping with depression at my church. One day it occurred to me that the modules I prepared for the class could be the framework for a book. In the autumn of 1999, I wrote the first draft of The Unwelcome Blessing. Also, some friends with computer skills helped me put together a loose leaf workbook that I gave to the participants in my class. The pride I felt in my little handmade workbooks encouraged me to keep writing. Because I had done so little writing for so many years it was tough sledding at first. I wrote the first draft on a typewriter. I didn’t own a computer, and hadn’t a clue about the ease of word processing. I also did the research for the book the hard way, the old fashioned way–sans the internet and search engines. I had only a very vague idea of what a search engine was. However, in spite of my difficulties with composition and syntax, I became convinced that the Holy Spirit was in the project. Ideas and scriptures came to me so rapidly at times when I was writing that it seemed like they were coming from somewhere not inside of me.
In the summer of 2000, I sent inquiries wth the first chapter and an outline to ten major Christian publishers and almost immediately collected ten rejection letters. I was so naive. I thought they would at least read what I had sent. Most of the letters stated that they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. After that debacle I was terribly discouraged and the manuscript went on the shelf for four more years. But God intervened again. I met an editor for a local publisher. He reviewed the manuscript and suggested much needed changes. Around the same time I acquired a friend who had been an editor for another major Christian publisher. She suggested more changes and very gradually The Unwelcome Blessing was crafted into a pretty good book. It was finally published in October, 2005. I paid for the cost of publication myself.
I returned from a two week stint with the Red Cross in Texas following hurricanes Rita and Katrina to find a box of books on my doorstep. I was so apprehensive that I didn’t open it and examine the contents until the following day. I was terrified to face the fact that what I had composed might really just be unadulterated garbage. I had no self confidence in spite of the fact that I had felt God was in the project from the very beginning. The next morning, after my morning walk and considerable prayer, I very hesitantly opened a copy and began reading. After a couple chapters I thought “Did I write this? It’s pretty good. It looks like it was done by a real writer, not an amateur like me.” There were passages that I did not consciously remember writing.
Five years have passed and three more books have been written and published. It seems the more I write the easier it gets. I know, my syntax still limps across the page on broken sentences and at times my insights are a bit trite and well worn. Nevertheless, I persist. I’ve sold a total of around 400 books and probably given away another 100. I’m not exactly rich and famous. I’m still awaiting Oprah’s call. However, on my better days, I feel something akin to improved self-esteem. I am pleased that the Holy Spirit has called me to be a channel for healing and for the edification of Christ’s Body. I have gotten seven or eight letters or emails attesting as to how much my book on depression was a Godsend. I’ve answered most of them and let them know how affirming it was for me to hear their feedback. I’ve also gotten some great verbal feedback about my book on spiritual warfare: Satan’s Top Ten Tricks. It was used as a study for one home group. It has been described it as “life changing” and “eye-opening.”
I have to say though that the book I’m most fond of is the one hardly anybody has read: DiosPsyTrek: But God Had a Better Idea. There are fewer than 20 copies in circulation. Most of the readers have been friends and family. It is 22 stories about episodes from my life, mission trips, people I’ve know and correspondence from spiritual mentors. Its intended audience is mostly me and a few people who know me. I’ve not really tried to promote it. Someone reminded me recently that Pastor Joel once said that his sermons were mainly for himself (or words to that effect). I seem to recall him saying that and so I guess this book is my sermon to myself. I have copy of DiosPsyTrek at the office and sometimes when I have a long wait between clients I will pick it up and read a chapter. I find that I tremendously enjoy reliving some of the events I describe in the book, and often my spirits are lifted by some thought which was intended for others. I hope that’s not narcissim. And once again there are whole paragraphs that I dont recall writing. I hope that’s the Holy Spirit and not the leading edge of alzheimers.