I, Dalton Lewis, have a crushing mental illness that turned me from a twenty-four year old with potential into a crazy, fat man, living with my parents and screaming at the walls. Believe me, the walls deserved it. These conversations inside my head matter! I need to deal with my hallucinations. That takes up most of my day, leaving a little left for writing, reading and hobbying. Talking to the voices in my head is a necessity, like breathing. They distract me from the world around me. They confuse me. Sometimes my condition makes me sit there, not moving, for a long time. Occasionally I will laugh at nothing or smile a bright smile for no reason — a maniacal grin, as they used to call it.
That — and my own actions — prevented me from having a real career. I bagged groceries for a while, pretending that I felt fulfilled by having such a menial position. I would bring in carts, and people would buy groceries and leave their carts out, and I would bring them in again, and they would take them out again, an unending cycle of menial labor. I should have been proud to get people their groceries into bags or put their carts back into the store for them to use them. I didn’t care — it crushes one’s soul to do something like that all day long. I can’t even do that anymore. That was fifty pounds ago, when I was 250. Now I weigh 300 pounds and can’t manage to bring carts in.
Do I give up?
I don’t give up. The world may suck, but don’t surrender to it. That’s terrible and lonely and sad. Fight back! Continue to do something you care about even when facing total disaster and humiliation. Face the world, and say, fuck you, I’m not going to give up on my dreams. Scream at reality that you won’t ever give up. Do it. Stand up, right now, and scream, I won’t give up. I won’t ever stop trying. Walk when you can’t run anymore. Crawl when you can’t walk. Continue to write, writing novel after novel even if no one reads them. Okay?
Pessimism sucks; cynicism doesn’t. Describing the world as fucked up is fine as long as it makes you work harder and give more to overcome all those difficulties. I will write about what’s wrong with the world, but my characters will always fight for what they love. They won’t sit around, smoking cigarettes and talking about their emotions. They will do things, have adventures, and live their lives to the absolute maximum.
My friends have goals. Finnegan wants to write role-playing games and play as many indie RPG’s as possible. Simon is writing a time-travel novel. Philip is making a web series with a grant that he received. Terry is streaming Warhammer 40k games and video games to try to gain an audience doing that. Gilbert, of course, is a tax lawyer who writes wills for people. Richie is traveling the world and having adventures. I am continuing to write novels in hopes of writing that big, great American novel.
Will I succeed? I don’t know, but I will try it for as long as I can breathe and eat and think and type. Doing something matters. Effort matters. Doing one’s best is an absolute necessity, and I hadn’t been doing that for the last twenty years. I had written regularly but not every day, and I hadn’t written for a set period of time each day. I hadn’t made a schedule, and as a consequence I only wrote half a dozen books that I hadn’t done enough work to rewrite. I needed to give my books more time and attention. Rewriting the shit out of those books should have been my priority. Instead I published draft 1.5, not letting those second and third drafts impress audiences.
What do I do now? I work out most days. I read a book a week. I write three hours a day. Today is day four or so of writing three hours a day, and already I have published a novella, fan fiction story of 5000 words, and written a blog entry every day in the month of August. I have started something, made a difference in my career. I’m proud of that and look to continue.
Thanks, and take care, friends.