Sunday, June 26, 2011
Question 1 From Preston Grishaber
For a summer class project, Preston has sent me 10 questions about this blog. I'll try my best to answer them all in the time allotted.
Question 1. What prompted to you to start writing, and what was the first venue you started using, did you write anything else prior to starting blogging?
A little background first. As a kid going through public schools, I had a horrible time with English. I did acceptable work in other subjects, yet in English I was always on the verge of failing. Although never officially diagnosed, I believe I have some form of dyslexia. My brain just did not process words very well. Not only could I not write well, I could not read well either, I guess it goes without saying that I was also terrible at spelling. It is not that I failed to understand definitions of words, it was the processing of those words through my brain for effective communication that was malfunctioning. Something always got lost in the process. My parents believed that my bad grades in English were due to me being lazy and rebellious. In an attempt to cure me of this I was often punished. Being punished for something that was beyond my control was confusing, and caused me a lot of problems. I became depressed and overly wrought with guilt. This also effected my self esteem, and I began to hate myself. Because I wasn't very good at it, and that I carried emotional baggage for it, I came to hate the task of writing and reading. This stayed with me for a long time.
Fast forward many years. I met a woman who helped me get off the streets. We eventually married, we had a couple kids, bought a house, etc. When we divorced, I returned to the streets. Not long after that, she began accusing me of things I had not done. So, I started keeping a journal in which I wrote a list of my daily activities; where I was, at what time, what I was doing. I felt I needed it in case I ever had to prove my whereabouts. After a few months of this, I started adding things to the journal, writing out my thoughts about life etc. It was pretty basic and poorly written, but it got me in the habit of putting pen to paper on a regular basis. The cheap spiral notebooks, pens, and coffee at the mom and pop coffee shop, I paid for with money I made selling blood plasma. Writing in the journal gave me something to do while sitting in the cafe for hours on end, seeing as I had no where else to go.
Then I found out about an educational program being offered at the Room In The Inn homeless day shelter. The program was self paced and lasted about a year, with lessons to do each day. The technical definition of the program was "neural linguistic programming." Its commercial name was "Expressways to Learning." Each session consisted of 40 words of an 8th grade vocabulary. It wasn't so much about learning the words as it was about the act of processing the words. In one section of a session each word would flash on the screen and I would have to say the word, or I would hear each word through the head phones and would have to write it down. This repetition of hearing, seeing, saying, and writing the words helped condition my brain to process words more efficiently. When I completed the program I was reading and writing better than ever. And I was motivated to continue with improving these skills afterwards. The first book I read after the program was Moby Dick. In a few years I had read several novels. Prior to this program I had never read an entire novel.
In the late 90's, while homeless, I did get an idea about creating a newsletter, of sorts, to explain homelessness to the general public, seeing as most people didn't understand it. Researching this idea on the internet at the public library, I discovered that other cities had Street Papers that were already doing what I had envisioned. I contacted these papers and got some advice on how to proceed. Using a computer at a homeless shelter, and borrowing money from a couple friends, I made two issues of “Homeword”. They were surprisingly well received. Still, it was costing me 80 cents to make each copy of the paper that I was selling for a dollar. Soon after I came out with the second issue, I got an opportunity to move into a halfway house, so I abandoned the project and took a job working at a convenience store.
After working at the store for a year I was able to move out of the halfway house and into my own apartment. But, a year after I got my apartment, I was let go from my job. The store was going out of business. I eventually lost the apartment and ended up back on the streets. By this time, Nashville had built a new public library downtown. It was a very large building and was furnished with a hundred internet accessible computers. I started spending all my days at the library and on the internet. That's when I started getting involved in discussion boards, and soon after, into blogging.