I recently read an article that said more than 95% of blogs fail within their first twelve months. The reasons for failure vary from a lack of readership, to loss of interest on behalf of the author, and everything in between. But regardless of why they fail, the number shocked me. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been writing for this site for six years. I never envisioned that I would be one of the minority that made it.
I have always tried my hardest to write from the heart, and have told myself since the inception of this site that an author’s dreams are achieved when they move just one reader. But a friend recently brought to my attention that I have a subscriber list just shy of twenty thousand, and I felt that the milestone, coupled with the release of my sophomore novel, and my six year anniversary of blogging was worth acknowledging.
Although I rarely acknowledge them, I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have had the successes I have had. So I wrote a letter to the man I was right back when my journey as a blogger began. I wrote him a letter to give him the strength to keep on writing, even in those moments when he feels like giving up. And because there are people who have been following this site ever since that man produced his very first entry, I wanted to share it with those that choose to read it. Raw, and unedited. From the mouth of a wolf to the world eater I once was.
It’s July 17th, 2012, and you’re sitting at your computer with tears rolling down your cheeks as the view counter of your new website sits at zero. You’ve just posted the first blog you have ever written, and yet rather than feel proud at what you have achieved, you feel defeated. You’ve been having a rough time lately. In fact, you’ve been struggling with anxiety for as long as you can remember. I know it probably sounds like an exaggeration, but that post you just created, it’s going to alter the trajectory of your life from here on out. For better, or worse, you’re a blogger now. From this moment onwards, writing will be the cause of your sickness, and the cure to your disease.
I wanted to reach out to you, to tell you how proud I am of you for finding the bravery to post what you just did. It takes courage to not be afraid, and it takes strength to admit that you are weak.
I want to tell you about your future too. But before I do, I first need to acknowledge your past. You ended your post with a line that oozed apprehensive ambition, and it made me sad to read over it six years after it was originally produced. So, I want to repeat it back to you. I want you to read your own words and hear the pain in what you said. Then, before this letter is done, we’re going to talk it through.
Are you ready? Here it is:
Ten years from now, I want to be able to say that I had what it takes to look depression and misery in the eye, and tell it to fuck off.
You have already been writing for seven years at this point. You’ve had a few failed attempts at manuscripts, and even managed to complete one or two. Right now, you think what you have created is brilliant. But in time, you’ll come to understand just how terrible these initial scripts are. I know that it hurts to know how many agents and publishers have rejected your queries, and you feel humiliated that one piece of shit even took enjoyment in calling you out for a spelling mistake in your synopsis. You feel depressed that people don’t see the greatness inside of yourself that you do. But stick with it kid. Don’t ever lose hope. That character you have been writing about, Jason Dark, people are going to read his story one day.
Three years from now a company in the United States is going to publish the first of what is supposed to be a four-book series featuring him, and for a few brief moments, you’ll feel on top of the world. But before you reach what you will misconstrue as the summit of your achievements, you’re going to crash and burn. More than once.
That depression you spoke about? It’s going to get a whole lot worse. You’re going to push yourself to breaking point more times than you’ll ever be comfortable admitting. You’re going to set fire to manuscripts, destroy relationships, alienate your readers, and push yourself into a place so fucking black you won’t even be capable of finding the path you trod to get there.
Despite your own self-loathing, the number of views on your page is eventually going to tick past zero. Yet even though someone, somewhere is reading, you’re going to grow frustrated that so few care about what you’re going through, and the pains you have endured to blog about it. In the first six months of your website’s existence, less than a hundred people are going to view your work. Considering how hard you’re going to plug yourself to you friends via social media and in person, it’s going to make you feel as though you’re a failure.
This disappointment is going to make you begin to despise other writers. You’re going to be jealous of them, and you’ll begin producing posts laced with venomous undertones, telling anyone who will listen that they are undeserving of their successes. In hindsight, I can tell you that you shouldn’t judge them so harshly. One day you will learn to not only appreciate your fellow blogger, but also to use negativity as a fuel for your creative fires.
A few years now someone will tell you that you have no place in the literary industry, and you’ll use their criticism as motivation to publish an article with a website that receives over 18 million views a week. And the other bloggers; the ones you feel you need to destroy… Some of them are great writers, and wonderful people. Right now, your own frustration and insecurity are obscuring your ability to appreciate them, and to learn from their achievements. But you’ll get over that in time. And when you do, you’ll understand that we all have our own realities, and that it’s wrong for you to assume that you are the only person who knows what it feels like to hurt.
Speaking of hurting…
Your depression is going to really hurt your ability to resonate with an audience. Your first two years of blogging is going to be a shit storm of self-loathing, hate, and terrible metaphors that people struggle to palate. But then, in December 2014, you’re going to start to change. You’re going to start to become a man.
You’ll write a post about broken windows in response to a terror attack, defending a religion you have no affiliation with. The post will polarize your readers. Some will appreciate your ambition and willingness to take a stand. They will respect your appeal to the better angels of our nature, and offer their camaraderie and support. But many will call you an idealist, a child, and far worse. You’ll receive death threats, emails which consist of passages of scripture, and even see your name and photograph defamed on websites dedicated to intolerance.
It’s going to scare you. But you’ll fight back. You’ll give as good as you get, threatening to protect your beliefs with bloody knuckles and an acid tongue. Your war of words with one reader will escalate so rapidly that your partner and family will become concerned, so you’ll try to make peace by writing a post about bygones being bygones.
But the olive branch you extend is only going to make things worse. The reader will threaten to attack you, call your mother names, and claim that he is doing so in the name of his God. Unfortunately for him, you never really forgive him for this. The idea that anyone would use their faith as a means of projecting hate makes you feel ill. You’ll probably find it funny to know that six years later, you’re still dishing out his email address to every spam list that you can find. You know it’s a little immature to do so… but, fuck him. He shouldn’t have said what he did about your mum.
In 2015, you’ll publish a book, grow an audience, and begin to make a name for yourself. You’d never believe it, but a few months after your book is released, people are going to start contacting you to ask if you’d like to be interviewed on their radio shows and websites. They’re going to tell you that they enjoy your work, and ask if have any words of wisdom for up and coming bloggers. Your writing is going to improve a lot in this time. You’ll begin weaving the positivity that has begun to blossom inside of your chest through your words. Shit, you’re going to feel so goddamn good that you start sharing fictional pieces on your website too. I know that sounds great in theory. Believe me when I say that I once thought it was too. But after a while it’ll dawn on you that your mother and little sister have read pieces you’ve written about undressing a woman and feeling her writhe beneath your sheets.
And then, just when you feel like you have found your purpose in life, everything is really going to go to shit.
You’re going to live through a period of eighteen months during which two friends will take their own lives, the girl you thought you’d marry will walk out on you, you’ll have a health scare that is going to make you more afraid than you have ever been, and your publisher will tell you that they no longer wish to represent you.
You’re going to hit rock bottom, Chris. And you’re going to hit it real fucking hard. Your family and friends are going to be concerned about you. They’re going to fret for months about how different you have become. Your mother is going to ask you repeatedly if you need professional help, and if you have had thoughts of suicide. Your father will end a phone call by telling you ‘not to do anything stupid’, and unbeknownst to you, your friends will band together to make sure that someone is always watching over you whenever possible.
During this period, you’ll lose weight, quit writing, and get so sick that company you work for will ban you from showing up until you agree to visit a psychologist. Your writing will become macabre again. The confidence that once shined in your work will be shattered, and you’ll begin embracing analogies about flowers and heartbreak as a means of coping.
You’re going to be so lost inside your own depressive mindset that even though you tell your mum that you’ve never thought about giving up, you will. A lot. In fact, there’s going to be a few moments where the only thing that saves you is the knowledge of how painful it was when your friends took their lives, and your refusal to put the people who love you through that agony again.
Eventually you’ll find a way to start over, and you’ll begin writing a love story so that you can experience the happy ending you believe will forever allude you. You’re going to cry your way through the early stages of the first draft, and much of what you produce will need to be rewritten. But the project will ultimately become something you are truly proud of.
Writing about selflessness and love is going to teach you so much about who you are, who you have been, and who you want to become. Despite having drafted the sequel to your debut novel, you’ll abandon it and decide to publish your love story instead. You’ll distribute it yourself too. After years of viewing self-publishing as an act of creative defeat, you’ll decide not to follow the traditional publishing route when you realise that you’re more concerned with sharing what you have created with those who choose to read your work, than chasing down publishing contracts and mass market appeal.
The novel will come out just a few weeks before I write you this letter. It’s release, coupled with the realization that I have been blogging for six years, are the catalysts for this letter. See, I’m about to turn 30 in a few months, which has prompted me to think a lot about my past. Call me melancholy for doing so, but I just can’t help but turn my attention to where I have come from so that I can understand where I am heading in the future. Maybe it’s because some of the places that I have been, that you are yet to go, aren’t so great. Maybe I’m trying to disprove the sentiment people have often told me that the best indicator for future behavior is past behavior.
Whatever the reason for my looking back to progress forward, it was by doing so that I came to find the quote we both penned on July 17th, 2012 that I spoke of above. I looked right back on where my blogging journey started, and realised just how far I have come in the past six years. When I started blogging I was afraid, downtrodden, and lost. Just like you are right now. You just wrote a post about your father nearly dying, and how afraid you are to know that your little brother is struggling with anorexia. Now here I am six years later telling you that Dad is still kicking along, and your brother, he got his shit together, and he’s actually accomplished a hell of a lot more than most 22 year olds.
Perhaps you’d like to know that I’m not lonely, downtrodden, or lost anymore either. I feel like you’ll be excited to know that those feelings will pass. These days I’m a confident, proud, and happy near 30-year-old with two published novels to his name. I am also a son, a brother, a lover, an uncle, and although you won’t understand this analogy just yet, I’m a fucking wolf. And one day, you will be too.
Six year ago, when I was you, I told myself that a decade into the future I wanted to be able to say that I overcame depression and misery. But it turns out that I didn’t have to wait that long. And neither will you. Because we’re one in the same; perfectly imperfect in every single way. The next few years are going to fly by, so try to appreciate the small moments of happiness you will inevitably experience as best you can. Because it feels like just yesterday that it was July 17th, 2012 and I was sitting exactly where you are now.
I started writing because I feared who I was. But six years later, I continue to write because I’m damn proud of who I have become, and because I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to change anything about the path that I have walked. I know that you ended your first post by saying you wanted to tell depression to fuck off. Believe me, there was a time when I wanted to say that too. But I felt I needed to write to you and say you never will. Not because you lose your battle; but because you’ll learn that you can’t fight fire with fire, and you’ll kill depression with kindness instead.
Keep your chin up, Chris. Keep writing. And always remember that no matter how bad life may seem, there is always the possibility for it to get better. You just have to give it a a chance.