Page by page, line by line, you can rewrite your own reality. The words on the page are powerless without the passion that drives every letter of every syllable until the final punctuation is placed at the bottom of the final page; when the only thing left to say is, “The End.” But until that moment, you have the ability, the power, and the responsibility to rewrite your reality until you get it right. Even the worst villains can save the world. No one is simply stuck in their life – you are only stuck in your life because you believe that to be the truth.
“I’m stuck in a dead-end job,” you may say. Because you haven’t stepped out into the unknown to seek your passion, rather than simply working to pay the bills.
“I’m stuck in a loveless marriage,” you may say. Because you haven’t really sought to rekindle the fire of passion that brought you two together in the beginning.
“I’m stuck in…” you fill in the blank. And then ask yourself, how real is your excuse?
There was a time when I could legitimately and accurately say “I’m stuck in prison.” And I was – locked doors and all. And I had two choices: Watch the clock run-out, or make the clock run-out. So I made the clock run-out. Rather than lamenting my sentence away, whining about how much time I had left, I produced, I created, I imagined – I wrote, I ran, and I earned a degree in prison. And then, on December 5, 2014, I walked out of prison, a better person, not only glad to be out, but even more excited to be in. I was excited to be in a new life that seemed impossible. The air seemed to smell different that day; cleaner, clearer, sweeter; like an evening breeze on the beach, rushing off the cresting shore of the ocean waves.
I came home, got a job, and did my best to be Mr. Normal. I worked a regular job, lived a regular life, had regular responsibilities – I was done being a cheater, a liar, an addict; and to fill that void, I began to write again. And soon, writing is all I will do. Writing is the only thing at which I am truly great. When I sit down and paint the lyrical paintings on my plain white canvas, the art takes shape in my mind and is played-out onto paper like a symphony in a deep dark ringing hall. And when I’m on, I’m on. I will often get into “the zone” with writing, and write a thousand (or so) words, then stop, reread it, and think to myself, “Damn, I seriously just wrote that.”
I was reading an article in Writer’s Digest recently and it posed the question, “What motivates you to write?” But it wasn’t the type of question that ask what topic or what genre or what music motivates you, but rather, it was a big-picture question. What, in the broadest possible spectrum of your life, motivates you to write. And I was pleased to find that it did not take me long to sufficiently and honestly answer this question.
Anyone who has read any of my work on this journal (or blog, if you will), “Life After 3PM” would certainly notice that I write about my wife – a whole helluva bunch. But she is not what motivates me to write. She inspires me – oh does she ever inspire me, like a muse singing a beautiful song – but although much of what I write is to her or for her, she is not what motivates me to write.
My wife and I saw Suicide Squad last weekend. I must admit, I had low expectations for this film, and yet, I cannot recall an instance at a film when I was more pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie.
I particularly bonded with Will Smith’s character, Deadshot. He’s a super-villain assassin who is a crack-shot at anything he shoots – he never misses. But as a result of his villainous conquests, he was eventually caught and thrown in prison. In the film, he is essentially coerced by the government into being a good guy to fight a force of greater evil. And in the process of learning about Deadshot’s character in the film, we learn that he has a young daughter whom he loves deeply. Essentially, he is the tragic father figure whose actions have caused him to be taken away from her, leaving her wondering what ever happened to her daddy.
Needless to say, I could definitely relate.
So near the end of the film, Deadshot has the option of either finishing the mission against this greater evil, or escaping from the government’s custody and living as a fugitive. And while the other converted villains in the “Suicide Squad” are strongly considering escape, Deadshot decides he’s going to stay and fight. Deadshot decides, for once, he’s really going to be the good guy. And when he is asked why, he says with passion and conviction, “my daughter is gonna know that her daddy is not a piece of shit.”
When he said this – in the way he said it – it felt like my heart caved-in. And that’s when it occurred to me. This is what motivates me to write. When (not if) my book is published, it will carry a message that is deeply contrary to the errant life-standards by which I have lived for entirely too long. I’m going to put on paper, between two covers, that the way I lived was wrong, the way I am now is right, and I will shout from the rooftops if I must to keep people from making the same choices I did. Because on the news, almost daily, we see it again and again – another teacher, and another teacher, and another teacher…
There will come a time when my daughter will fully understand what I did. She’s ten now, so she doesn’t particularly care and she is simply glad I’m home. But in four or five or six years, she’ll know, she’ll comprehend, she’ll understand, and she’ll hate me for it. She’ll hate me for it because her friends will give her shit about it. She will hate me for it because she will be ostracized for having me as a father. And that absolutely breaks my heart.
If I don’t start now – and I mean right now – to turn those tides and stop being the villain, I could damage my daughter’s livelihood as she grows up, which will almost certainly damage our relationship as result. So I’m writing now. I’m working on a project so complex and difficult that it will soon require all of my time and attention. Because I owe it to all the people I hurt to come back and do something good. Because I owe it to all the people I’ve lied to, to write and publish something that is brutally true. Because I owe it to my daughter to show her that I’m not the monster that people will tell her I am.
“my daughter is gonna know that her daddy is not a piece of shit.”
This is why I write. And like the members of the Suicide Squad, I am prepared to fight.
Maybe I make it, maybe I don’t. But I will fight.
On some levels, the fight has already begun. A few people I respect have implied that I won’t make it; that I’m not good enough, and that I will fail.
I like that. My biggest motivators are the ones who tell me I can’t do something. So to them, I only have one thing to say: If you are only anticipating my failures, do not congratulate me on my successes. Having proven you wrong is congratulations enough. Because by then, I will have been able to take the moment I dream about and make it a reality: I will be able to show my daughter what I’ve done and say, “See, I did some bad things in the past, but I’m doing so much more good in the future.”
My daughter is amazing and I’m so very proud of her. And I really want her to be proud of me too, regardless of the past.
You can rewrite your own reality. Want proof? Watch me…