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.
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.
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.