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Monday, January 26, 2015

Writer's Write - R.I.P. - An Expose

I just read an article penned by Cynthia McCabe for The Washington Post, published on Sunday, January 25, 2015 describing the tragic life and death of an American man in Japan. He was a self-described writer.

It brought a tear or two to my eye.

I'm not going to publish the whole story, you can read it HERE via the Toronto Star newspaper, but I will discuss it, because the events surrounding his death sound a lot like what every writer might actually face--what if I write something and nobody cares to read it?

Basically... on December 10, 2013, an American ex-pat in Japan e-mailed a suicide note to a handful of writers (mainly reporters) under the subject line “Saving a Legacy”.

This was to be the epitaph of Dennis Williams, a 66-year-old English teacher, but perhaps more importantly in his mind, a writer that no one read and thus no one cared about.

Writers (I consider myself one) are a strange sort. We are often loners either pretending to be in touch with the public and society but are often just the type who sit quietly on the sidelines viewing life and then taking the time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to describe it for others.

From the article on Williams: 

Williams spent years writing the books, while also maintaining a blog and a Facebook page. Lengthy pieces about the human heart, literature, American culture juxtaposed with Japanese culture, technology’s role in modern lives — all went uncommented on.

When he reposted these pieces on Facebook, a handful of likes occasionally followed. He was Willy Loman with Wi-Fi, demanding that attention must be paid. Nobody really did.

Williams concluded his email with this line: “I’m not asking anything of you, but just hoping that by reaching out like this, the ideas will somehow survive. I believe in ideas, and that they really can change human destiny.”

Why do writer's write?

It's to be read.

Why do we need to be read?

It's to feel as though what we are doing might actually make a difference in this life and maybe for other people. It is to be how we endure long after we are dust in the wind, dead. It's how we live forever.


At least that's the hope. The plan, even.

People want their life to have meaning.  Who am I? Why am I here on this planet with this life? At least those who spend the time contemplating such things. But even when not contemplated, it is subconsciously. 

Yeah, the other option of eternal life is via procreation - that I will live on eternally through the bloodline I have helped forge... my son and his kids and so on... I live eternally.

But that's not enough for some people.

They want to be remembered.

I think I am in that latter category, as was Williams - he unfortunately because of the manner he chose to inform people that he was going to kill himself.

He wrote to people and told them (my words): "Here is my life. No one cared. I'm going to end it. My life should not be forgotten."

Every person who has ever written a suicide note has stated exactly just that - perhaps not as long winded as a writer might, but the emotion is there, nonetheless. Why else write a note? Who are you leaving it for? People who care about you? There's the irony. 

I am not a fancier of suicide as an option to life.

While I am aware that human beings seem to possess either a "fight of flight" mindset when it comes to dealing with problems in life, I certainly am one of those who chooses to fight.

It's why I shed a few tears for Williams.

Not because he killed himself, but rather because he lacked that inside power to not kill himself.

Why do people kill themselves? I understand being terminally sick and bankrupting the family through medical care or putting them through emotional pain... and I also see the truly sick not wanting to be in physical (and thus emotional) pain any longer. I understand that. Life is tough.

But, I also understand that death affects the living more than the dead who no longer have to care.

Just one more day, many of the living would ask for when it comes to those who are sick or dying... maybe there's a cure... maybe you just get to say something to them that makes you (the still living) feel better about life.

Maybe it's so that the last words to a loved one aren't angry ones as they race out the door and are killed by a bus.

I get it. I was lucky I didn't have those issues when my mother died suddenly 20+ years ago. No regrets, except I wish she was alive to see her grandson and he to know her. And for me, maybe to get some free babysitting and someone to talk to when life gets tough.

I don't have her around - so I talk through my words here in this blog. It's cathartic.

I am a writer. I write for a monthly trade magazine. It's what gives me money.

I am a writer. I write this blog on a daily basis. I do this for a living... to live.

I do not write for money. Money does not make one alive.

I write to live and I live to write.

I know there are many blogs out there that get far greater numbers when it comes to reading. I think the vast majority off my daily hits are from people searching out topics involving sex and porn. Thank-you, and you are welcome. I wrote it for you.

Do I wish it was for people wanting to read about MY take on a temple or on a historical document I may have decided to become better informed about? Sure. But a few people read this stuff, and that makes me happy.

Yeah... I'm not stupid or so completely idealistic as to not want to have more money than I have now, but I'll do it the honest way, being true to myself and to others.  

I know that people on-line are supposed to have shorter attention spans than what people had 200 years ago. I want my information and I want it now. 140 characters at a time 'now', if possible. 

But... I like to provide MORE information than most, simply because I want the whole story. Why should I have to flit between several other documents on different websites to get a complete picture on a topic? I don't want to, and neither should you.

How many times have you read an article in a newspaper (on-line or otherwise), and you walk away wondering about so many other questions that were not answered? I have. It's why I write a lot, providing information many see as superfluous, but maybe for one person reading it, it is not.      

So... I write first, and foremost, for myself - because in my own obsessive compulsive way (the only way I appear to be OCD), I must.

But I write because - what initially was just a blog filled with 90 adventures of my time in Japan - this blog has now evolved a bit like what Williams himself wanted... a way for people to read his words.

I can dig it.

I have always said (in my head) from the very beginning, that as long as there is at least one person out there who reads this blog and my words, then I will keep writing.

I'm a writer, and writer's write. As such, writers have egos, and need to be read.

We write because we must, but it's better when we are read.

Being read... emotionally it helps keep us alive.

It's a shame Williams felt that was no longer the case.

Maybe he reached that point where NO ONE read what he was writing.

To which, I say... change what you are writing. Fight or flight. Write or right.

To Dennis Williams, late of this planet Earth: I wish you had fought. Or fought harder, or fought better.

I have often wondered... when one is ready to commit suicide, might there not be something wrong inside the brain... a chemical imbalance of some sort... that maybe when adjusted could allow for a fight?

I'm not saying everyone who has suicidal thoughts is chemically imbalanced - well, maybe I am suggesting it.

I know someone who tried to kill herself twice - failed  - and the chemicals inside were waaaaaay of. I'm not talking about someone on death's door with cancer, stuck with tubes and painkillers and an inability to do more than just puke or blink. I'm talking about those otherwise physically healthy people who seem to think that death is easier than life.

Uh... it is. Death is easier than life. Killing oneself (while living), is difficult, I would imagine. No idea. The survivors often seem sheepish to talk about such things.

But it's to those like Williams who just give up - was there something chemically imbalanced inside the brain?

Did he really try and get people to read his stuff? Did he do all that ANYONE could, or just what he thought he could? Did he change his writing style or his topics?

Did he come to the conclusion that maybe he wasn't a writer? No... he wrote. Writer's write.

But he said he had nothing left to say. That's bulls!t. Writer's always have more to say.

He just said it in an epitaph e-mail and then killed himself.

Now I'm getting angry. He just gave up.  And took his own life. That's selfish.

For anyone who has ever lost someone suddenly through violence or accident... wouldn't you hate anyone who could so callously throw away life... physical breathing life that you know your lost one would not have wasted?

Life is valuable. Don't throw it away. If you are having thoughts about killing yourself, talk to someone and tell them. There are many helplines out there - people who can provide the right help.

I'm not one of them, but I will help if I can.

I was 40 years old when I started writing for money and 44 when I got a clue that I liked writing for nothing other than a single reader.There is no set timetable for anything in life. I have 7 followers on this blog's Facebook page, one of whom is dead.

I have over 1,000 followers on Twitter, but only a few I know from repeated conversations... and even then, I don't know them. But that's okay. Twitter and Facebook et al were devised as a way to socially pass information along. It does that. Whether anyone uses it, of course, is out of my hands. It doesn't matter. While I do like to be read, I also do like to write. It helps me learn. Hunh. Maybe I just like to learn more than anything else?

See? I just learned something.  

I'll have more to say on other things tomorrow. Maybe Noboko, even.

Andrew Joseph

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