I’ve tossed my autobiography into a footnote.* I have no pretensions to fame (yet?). Maybe the reader will find something amusing or shared, which is great. I’ve done a lot of different things and lived in a number of different places, so there’s probably something, but I don’t think it says too much of interest. Here it actually sends a very confusing message, one I’d hate to explain in a job interview. One of the nicer things I get called is “interesting.” With the quotation marks.
You are what you create can be inspiring or scary. You are the things you build, the children you raise, the words you write, even the stones you skip out into the lake. I worked pretty hard for a good education that I intended to parlay into creating interesting things, but got sidetracked at age 18 by bipolar disorder. I kept running despite my muddled mind and nearly perpetual unhappiness, until age 30 when I couldn’t find a job and collapsed. I even went to see a psychiatrist(!) and was diagnosed, treated, and, well, nothing. The next dozen years I barely remember. But my health has been looking up after this 25-year detour. One doesn’t come bouncing ashore with optimism after so many years at sea, but I’m glad to be back.
A difficult life provides ample writing material. For the lucky, it also gives some contempt for adversity, a refusal to defer to your enemy. Listen to this undercurrent of defiance:
“Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It’s all just material.”
So now I am able to write. This really is a big deal, even if I only get a few hours a day. When it goes well, wow, it’s a thrill for someone like me. It’s a passion. As someone put it, if you didn’t have any fun writing something it probably won’t be fun to read. I want to share experiences and ideas that matter to me, in relation to my own life, and to preserve stories that are interesting, funny, or sad. After a year or so, this site is proving to be a good place to start. The thing to do now is write stuff, and most of my efforts are going into specific projects. I appreciate the responses I’ve gotten, best of all where something I’ve written has prompted someone to think of their own life a little differently. I’d like to write a memoir, but I’ve learned the hard way to be exceptionally patient in setting goals. Besides, I still have a lot to learn.
Many of the topics here are pretty serious, but I’ve set aside an “upbeat” category in case anyone accuses me of being a killjoy. It would be a terrible failure if I didn’t pass along the (sometimes dark) sense of humor that has carried me along. Besides, the first sin of writing is to be boring. The world does not need another clueless narcissistic writer mistaking what’s true for what’s interesting. For example, you won’t read here what I had for breakfast or whether it’s raining outside (it is!).
Although my view of mankind tends rather sharply towards the cynical, I think it’s a sin against life to allow past tragedy to deny us the potential for joy in life. Enjoy it and love others. It’s a wonderful life, dammit, though I know the living of it can get really complicated.
Unlike writing on paper, one can change old essays—or at least that’s my preference, versus the folks who just write even more, as if each writing were a new layer of soil. I think of it as more of a collection and understand why artists sometimes burn their own work, even things that are good—it no longer represents who they are now. We all know the horror of discovering these blights on our improved intention, and only some of us are interesting enough to be worth documenting every step of the way. These are early sketches for a memoir I’d like to write someday with the sort of detail that I think belongs within the depths of a book and not a fast-skim weblog. There’s a more intimate connection once you’ve sucked someone between the covers of a real book, a reliable place to share a complex story, versus the frenetic ADD turmoil of the web.
Reach me any time via “contact“
Andrew Wells Douglass
*Vitals: I am from all over. Born in Connecticut, raised in California (SF, two parts of LA), drawn East for college (Harvard College ’89, psychology and biology), then Somerville, next Ithaca (Cornell Law School ’92), two years in Chicago (clerkship), and now Arlington, Virginia, by far the longest residence. I am blessed with a wife—also Harvard ’89 and who struggles with multiple sclerosis—two school-age boys, a very close circle of friends, and a codependent cat. We’d like to get a dog. My resumé includes flight instructor in Los Angeles and Boston, MRI technologist, medical research assistant, computer programmer, federal law clerk, carpenter, independent contractor, and full-time dad.
The dad gig is permanent, or as long as they’ll have me. Hobbies include reading, all sorts of home improvement trades, cycling, and science, for which I do demos in the schools. I’ve started taking piano lessons, my first contact with reading or playing music.
Current profession: I pray for good, a writer.
Please also consider my other sites in the link blogroll. They get lonely.