The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

In 1995, biologists released fourteen wolves into Yellowstone National Park as a means of managing the critically high number of elk overgrazing within the reserve. It had been more than seventy years since wolves had resided in Yellowstone, and their reintroduction triggered an event known as a trophic cascade within the park’s ecosystem.

Through hunting, the wolves altered the feeding habits of the herds of elk, forcing them to avoid locations where they were easy prey. This divergence in grazing patterns allowed aspen and willow trees to regenerate, attracting bugs, which in turn lead to various bird species moving in. Shortly after the birds arrived, beavers returned to the area, building dams that provided shelter for otters and reptiles.

In addition to hunting elk, the wolves also killed off much of the coyote population, leading to an increase in the number of rabbits and mice who called Yellowstone home. This sudden surplus in rabbits and mice allowed the number of hawks, red foxes, and other species to flourish. The shift in the park’s ecological make up, and the reestablishment of balance between flora and fauna created a reduction in erosion, stabilizing riverbanks and channels. Because the rivers stayed more fixed in their course, the geography of the park was transformed forever.

Impressive, huh?

Depending on the literature you choose to read, the phenomenon brought about by the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone is either a feat of ecological genius on behalf of the biologists involved, or a bunch of fictitious bullshit that fails to consider circumstance and several other equally important occurrences that took place. Thankfully, I’m not trying to validate or disprove the legitimacy of claims that wolves saved Yellowstone National Park. I’m simply acknowledging that the premise that a wolf can be inserted into an ecosystem and redefine its geography appeals to me greatly.

It has been a few months since I posted. So it probably won’t be much of a surprise when I say that I have been struggling to write lately…

After more than five years of blogging I recently found myself feeling as though I had nothing left to say. On this page, I have spoken about love, heartbreak, family, health, suicide, and pretty much anything else that has impacted my life. I have picked fights, buried hatchets, offered advice, psychoanalysed myself, and become a test subject in my own emotionally fuelled experiments. But then around the time that 2017 took its final bow and allowed its name to be written into the history books, I had a crisis of confidence and found myself spending the next few months staring at a blank page without the faintest idea as to what I wanted to produce next.

I hate writer’s block. It’s the worst. When you are so in love with a creative action or process, there are few greater travesties than finding yourself at war with your own lack of imagination. When I don’t write, I become frustrated. When I become frustrated, I start to panic; and if I can’t find a way to break my creative blockage, that panic causes my mind to tear itself apart.

In early January my creative frustrations boiled over and I had a panic attack for the first time in almost three years. It was a horrible experience. My pulse spiked, my hands turned clammy, and a void opened inside the pit of my stomach, swallowing my confidence and ability to create. It wasn’t hard to understand what prompted my meltdown either. Eighteen months prior to the episode I had started writing a manuscript to heal from a broken heart. After unsuccessfully pleading with the universe to give me one final chance with a woman that I had once believed that I would marry, I turned to writing a love story so that I could know what it felt like to experience a happy ending.

I spent almost two years hiding myself from the world, using my dedication to a manuscript that often tore open the wounds it was intended to heal as a reason for not pursing a fresh start. But after the book had received its structural edit in December/January, I started making a few minor revisions as my mind began to ponder its next create endeavour. Until that moment, I hadn’t considered that one day the novel would be complete, and that when it was it would no longer be a shield to hide my vulnerabilities, but a detailed account of a man struggling to come to terms with his reality.

So, I stalled. I started distracting myself, searching for reasons not to move on. I began to edit scenes that I had already finalised, and convinced myself that my urge to write or blog had faded. When I did, I became frustrated, lost sight of why I started writing in the first place, and started having panic attacks.

Then, a few days ago a reader sent me an email and asked why I had spent so much of 2017 writing about love…

Well, kind of. The correspondence started out by asking questions about my compulsions to create, before quickly becoming a fusillade of insults that insinuated that I was a homosexual and a pathetic excuse of a man for exploring my emotions. It’s not the first time that I have received emails like this from a reader, and I doubt that it’ll be the last. If I am to be totally honest, over the course of my writing career I have come to appreciate my detractors. In a world that often celebrates mediocrity, to know that you have pushed someone so far beyond their comfort zone that they feel the need to tear you down or disparage your work is one of the greatest rewards that a writer can experience. It means that you have hit a nerve, stood up for something, or opened an individual’s mind to the possibility that there are ideas and beliefs that run incongruous to their own.

wolf in profile

Which is why I often include the death threats, slurs, and counter articles I have been subjected to as some of my proudest achievements as an author. Despite being a heterosexual male, I take great pride in being the victim of a homophobic slur from someone so socially and intellectually inept that they see an individual’s sexual orientation as a valid reason to vilify or disparage. I would rather that someone incorrectly assume that I am gay than be a closed minded piece of shit who is so inadequate with themselves that they hide behind their keyboard and spread messages of hate.

You’re probably wondering what writer’s block and a misdirected homophobic slur have to do with Yellowstone National Park…

To the average person; there is no correlation. Creative frustrations have absolutely nothing to do with sexuality or wolves roaming a reserve. But to a writer searching to rediscover his creative confidence, the three can easily become intertwined.

I started blogging in 2012 because my cognitive ecosystem was dying. Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts had overgrazed on my psyche, causing erosion and inhibiting new growth. But when I reintroduced positivity and creative thought into my head and allowed them to feed upon my own insecurities and self-loathing, my internal landscape began to change. Although I never used the specific insult that the reader who inspired this article did, I did used to say some truly horrible things to myself, and the wolves that I unleashed inside my brain gorged upon these anxieties and allowed new saplings of hope to grow.

Changing my mindset hasn’t been an easy process. The heartache that I forced myself to repeatedly relive whilst writing my most recent manuscript is proof of that. There were days when it hurt so fucking much to force myself to write about love because I truly believed that all hope was lost. But through allowing the wolves of change to run rampant inside my head, I have overcome so much that I don’t even recognise my own voice when I glance back at my earlier work. Sure, I still have days where the world seems a little darker than it did the day before, and the scars of a failed romance will always mark my skin. But for the most part I am happy.

When I think back to the end of 2017 I realise that my fear of moving on from a manuscript that quite literally saved my life had nothing to do with a need or desire to continue hiding from the world. I have healed, and I’m in a far better place than I have ever been. Instead, my panic arose because the conclusion of my manuscript, which now only needs a final proof read to be completely finished, meant that the reconstitution of a mind torn apart by self-loathing was almost complete, and I hadn’t yet figured out where I was heading next.

Which brings me to the point of this awfully long post…

Long before I had ever heard the tale of Yellowstone National Park, I had fallen in love with wolves. To me, the wolf has always been a symbol of loyalty, courage and strength. It is something that I have drawn wisdom from during my lower moments, and a symbol that I will continue to strive towards in the future. When I learned the story of how a pack of fourteen wolves supposedly altered Yellowstone’s geography, and saw the similarities with the shift I had undertaken within myself, I found a new purpose; one that reignited my creativity and ultimately stopped me from responding to the detractor noted above with more vulgarity.

There are things within our culture that I hate, and beliefs that I disagree with. I hate that people often still struggle to openly discuss mental health. I hate that a child can feel as though she is an outcast; that suicide rates continue to spiral out of control; and that because our society excuses intolerance and bigotry, some dickhead feels justified in his attempts to belittle a stranger through their blog.

So, I want to change them. I want to continue to evolve and embrace the idea that a wolf can alter an ecosystem, and I want to change the world.

It has been years since I have sat down to write with the intention of producing a bestseller. These days whenever I open up my computer or pick up a pen, I ask myself what I can do as an individual to create a lasting impression on the world, and on my reader as an individual. I aim to create pieces that inspire, expand minds, and that celebrate our vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies. By doing so, I truly believe that I can create a change in the mindset of my audience that will ultimately contribute to the reconstitution of our society.

It sounds like an unachievable goal, and I’ve often told myself that it would be probably be easier to aim towards producing a bestseller. But nothing worth doing is ever easy, and I’m too damn arrogant to back down from a challenge. If fourteen wolves can theoretically alter the geography of a reserve, and a writer can reshape his own psyche and overcome anxiety and depression; surely he can inspire someone else to embrace the wolves within their mind and reshape their own cognitive ecosystem, creating a more positive world in the process.

112 thoughts on “Fourteen Wolves

  1. superballrex says:

    This struck a chord with me, though I have differences. I’ve been working on my second novel off and on since 2013 and can’t seem to get very far with it. Now I’m in a master’s program for writing, with a good chunk of the novel due soon and little intrinsic desire to work on it. I think I’m trying to write a story that doesn’t want to be written but have not yet honed in on the story that does. Something’s gotta give. Maybe I’ve got some wolves to unleash. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. mannyatkins says:

    Beautiful story of wolves, and beautiful blog – thank you!

  3. Chris, thank you so much for writing this. I believe every post I’ve read of yours has struck me deeply and altered my perceptions. I appreciate that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart with us in Internet land. I, for one, have missed your posts and I hope you’ve overcome the block and can continue doing this that you do so well. You’re amazing and thank you (again) for sharing your gift with the world.

  4. savageddt says:

    Sharing your thoughts and feelings does not make you a homosexual… Ffs, people sometimes😡. Thank you for sharing this great post. I have not written a poem in over 4 years, where my poetry were about love, lost love and some cases realy screwed up stuff. I am a man, does that make me gay? I dont care. Words will find you again my friend. Just push through it.

  5. Auroraboros says:

    Good Lord, thank you for sharing this… You have already had a significant impact on me in the short time I have known you through your writing. You are a magnificent writer and it is an honor to know your work. You speak great truth in this piece, and are very healthy in how you dealt with the words of fools. Keep writing, keep sharing, keep loving.

    I seriously don’t mean to promote myself here, but I actually just posted a spoken word about this topic, I think you might appreciate it…

  6. DSKlausler says:

    Chris: I’ve always admired your writing… simply great expressive work. Couple of things you know: your dickhead correspondent will cringe when he reads this: “…a homophobic slur from someone so socially and intellectually inept…”; and, your now distant amore will wonder if she perhaps made a mistake.

  7. Wow ! Amazing post ! The wolf also holds a dear place in my heart, hope to read more of your path soon !

  8. One Sister says:

    It’s funny I came across this now. My son just asked me what three wishes I had, if I could do anything. The top one was right along the same lines as yours! In Italian they say wish for the moon so even if you don’t get there you’ll at least be among the stars! Best wishes.

  9. floweringink says:

    I think you are lovely and thoughtful and talented and write the kinds of things that make people feel and think and take pause. This is the first thing I read this morning; a wonderful way to start the day.

  10. Thank you so much for coming back. I enjoy your writing. I look forward to seeing/reading more of you in the future.

  11. galby68 says:

    Amazing post and a story that hits me at almost the perfect time. Where a few wolves can reshape the ecosystem of Yellowstone, I am borrowing and using this story to help inspire my junior managers at work to reshape the behavioral culture at work. Thank you!

  12. They say writer’s block is simply us not wanting to confront what our soul’s need to say. I guess what that milling around in my head I see those writing or lack of writing seasons differently. I sympathize with your struggle.
    You’re quite talented. Take your time. The world is yours. Mine. Theirs. Enjoy the journey. xo

  13. @vapor_sage says:

    Nailed it! For me, I’ve found that there comes a catalyst while in the desert of despair that releases the build-up simmering within

  14. floatinggold says:

    Just write. And you will get back on track.
    Well done on your manuscript, though.

  15. Beechmount says:

    Sometimes, we have to let some wolves into our lives to re-establish equilibrium

  16. Judith Moses says:

    So very well said!!!

  17. Wonderful, soulful post. We have much to learn from wolves, and you. Keep writing, please.

  18. Reblogged this on eclectic haze and commented:
    good to see this gentleman writing again…

  19. Mysterious May says:

    This post touched me so much. I am sorry to hear about what you’ve been through and I am glad you’re healed now. I think the worst thing as writers is trying to create stories we think people will love. I am with you on creating a piece of art that is going to inspire people instead of trying to produce a bestseller. Thank you for writing this.

  20. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Great post. Keep on writing and sharing.

  21. penhanley says:

    This is a brilliant blog post, beautiful and brave. Inspiring. Keep up the good work – in spite of all the odds! Voices like yours are what the world needs right now. – Penny.

  22. Jennie says:

    Thank you for sharing this story of the wolves being reintroduced to Yellowstone. The many changes were incredible. Wolves brought back natural flow of nature. So important!!

  23. Sala says:

    You are an amazingly gifted artist. Thank you for your stories and words of inspiration. Your work is healing because it’s filled with love. I loved hearing about the rebirth of the ecosystem in Yellowstone. Yay wolves!

  24. Wow! So compelling. To compare the wolves to your life story is very profound.

  25. Diogo says:

    Loved it in more ways than 1! Many more! Keep it coming!

  26. PixelatedAsh says:

    your writing is amazing and inspires people across the world. this post was beautiful.

  27. Congrats, so beautiful, so inspiring like usually. But this post is surely one of my favorites.👍🏼

  28. hirsutemal says:

    Brilliant and inspiring post; many thanks!

  29. hirsutemal says:

    Reblogged this on MAL's MURMURINGS and commented:
    a brilliant and inspiring post about ecosystems and cognitive ecosystems. Change is possible!

  30. There are no words other than brilliant and keep going!

  31. Ratika Deshpande says:

    Your posts always come to mew at the right time. Although I’m busy studying for my exams right now and haven’t written a story in a long while, I needed to read this post to remind myself of the things i want to do for myself and for others, and most importantly, that I have to keep growing and evolving. Thank you so much for sharing this. You have definitely impacted me through your words – you give me hope. 🙂

  32. notthedane56 says:

    I enjoyed both the story about Yellowstone, but more so the story about you and your struggles. I’ve wanted to quit blogging from time to time, but the want to continue usually outweighs my indifference in the end. I’ve tossed it all away and deleted all of my contacts, but they too have crawled back to me. I have though resisted the “I nominate you” type of requests, as they only seem shallow and empty. I write because I want to, but not to gain a status of having any number of “nominations” displayed on my site. Perhaps I am just being difficult about it, but that is how I see it.

  33. sandyfield49 says:

    Well I found the post interesting. Good luck on changing the world 🙂

  34. CARL R D'Agostino says:

    “what I can do as an individual to create a lasting impression on the world,”

    Seems the wolves planted and nurtured this thought so they enhanced your personal ecosystem too.

  35. tiostib says:

    Your honest and intimate sharing of your creative writing process resonates loudly in my soul. I suspect I’ve quite a few more life miles marked up than you, which gives me the advantage of perspective. From my point of view, although your current situation is certainly challenging, your frank questioning of self is a sign of wisdom and commitment. I trust you will find happiness and fulfillment, although the forms will likely surprise you.

    I had similar dreams when I began writing, similar hopes that my creative efforts would make the world a better place. I know this has happened, but not at the scale I’d dreamed of. My writing process has led me to connect with a new tribe, people who share my values and interests yet often don’t live anywhere nearby. Still, knowing they are doing their thing on and for pLanet Earth gives me great comfort.

    You are part of my tribe. You are making a positive difference in this world!

  36. Moony says:

    This was a very inspiring post! You’re right: it’s all too easy for us to slip into apathy and to focus on our own personal goals because we believe change is unimportant. What the world needs is more light and voices like yours who inspire them to create positive discourse and lobby for meaningful change in important issues. I hope that people like you can continue nurturing those seeds of change in your own personal ecosystems!

  37. Phil Huston says:

    George Balanchine said – “I don’t want dancers who want to dance. I want dancers who have to dance.” The same with writing. I understand writing a novel to rewrite your history. Regardless of the personal success and closure from that process we can never forget what us brought us there, lest we repeat the behaviors that found us there.

    I believe the wolves did change everything. No change ever begat no more change. Change this, and that changes. When that changes something else follows. In Yellowstone, in our lives. Not myth, nor magic. Metaphor.

  38. Doug Hawke says:

    I enjoyed the metaphor

  39. Ben Morais says:

    Keep writing Chris. I do find your writing compelling reading. You do make readers think and contemplate on the issues that you raise.

  40. Raney Simmon says:

    Loved reading this Chris because I know the wolves in my mind and heart agree with you completely.

  41. KTPpdx says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You have an admirable goal!

  42. This is a beautiful piece of writing, Marts. Thank you. The best writing comes when we reach inside and face our inner demons. So few are brave enough to do it. And it’s never easy. Welcome back.

  43. TMH says:

    Good line: “I aim to create pieces that inspire, expand minds, and that celebrate our vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies.”

  44. dawn gresko says:

    Reading this post brought the saying to mind “it’s all gone to the dogs.” That saying has negative implications, I’d guess because we usually associate wild dogs and wolves with fearful predators who destroy things.

    Yet you turn wolves into a positive force for reshaping mental and physical landscapes and actually rebuilding (not destroying) an ecosystem. A really surprising but beautiful metaphor that reminds me of “Think Like a Mountain” by Aldo Leopold.

  45. Marcy B says:

    Hey Chris! I love wolves!
    Thank you for liking my Saturday post, stop by and out the sequel, Sunday post!

    God be your Guide through ALL that is dark and doubtful!


  46. You remind me of one of the wolves I heard one early autumn evening, a symphony in the wilderness – so soulfully eery I wanted to join them. Put me on the list to buy your book when it’s out!

  47. johnlmalone says:

    an inspirational post. almost a parable

  48. Mush on Chris! Just keep mushing on…..

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