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tags: blog writing appendectomy manic

MY BLOG

by MATT GARVIN

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HOW DID I BECOME A BIG TIME WRITER?

In April of 2021 I became a writer. It was like flicking a switch. It was not something I wanted to do, or even something I thought I could do, or would even be good at. It was something I was compelled to do. I had had emergency surgery a few days earlier, and it changed everything. I went into the hospital as Matt 1.0, a front end developer by trade, and came out of the hospital Matt 2.0, with zero interest in front end development and infinity interest in writing. Writing became all I wanted to do.

I should have been getting lots of rest in the days that followed my appendectomy. Instead, I was sleeping only 3-4 hours a night, and as soon as I woke up, I needed to be in front of a computer, furiously trying to type out my thoughts as fast as they were coming; an impossible task. One thought would interrupt another before I could jot them down. It was exhilarating and frustrating at the same time; I was electric.

I was having a manic episode, and in addition to my rapid-fire thoughts, I had an outrageous ego about myself and my newfound skill. I was insufferable. I told my wife and my daughter that when my "pearls popped," if I didn't get them out in time, they would be lost forever. My "pearls" were my "pearls of wisdom." In my mind they were my incredible insights along with genius-level wordplay. I was not to be interrupted when I was at "work", which amounted to about 18 (or more!) hours a day, and yet both wife and daughter needed to be available to me, at my every whim, to hear me read my pearls aloud or for me to bounce ideas off of them. I had no interest in mundane tasks anymore, like doing the dishes, eating, showering, or parenting. My real job, the front end developer thingy, which was already part-time, became zero-time. And writing became all-the-time.

This very website, meant to showcase my word-magic, was initially designed by a good friend. Although I had the requisite skill -- making websites is 100% front end development, after all -- I did not want to waste my time building my own vanity website. (Talk about narcissism!) I was afraid building it would take away from what I was meant to do -- write! -- and again, pearls would be lost. So a friend stepped in for me, and did the first version of this site, and I kept on writing. (Thanks, Rob! For doing the initial website, and for indulging this outrageous pursuit of mine, on many levels. I truly and very sincerely appreciate your support.)

While I was manic, I felt like I needed to write as much as I could before the normal me took over. The normal me was lazy and lacked talent. But I somehow felt that if I could just keep writing while I felt inspired, possibly I could rewire my brain so that when the lazy/untalented me regained control, I would have enough muscle memory to still be able to write. Or something like that? (Who knows? I was out of my mind, after all. And the pearls kept a-poppin', so I didn't want to waste time overthinking my future. The future, and jobs that paid real money, was for suckers!)

I think my mania first began when I was in the hospital. I was very nervous, and all alone, and for whatever reason I started taking notes about who I met and what I saw. After over a year of COVID lockdown, everything I was experiencing was novel and seemed interesting to me. I am not sure if I planned on writing a Big Story about my ordeal from the get-go, but having notes sure came in handy when I did start writing. It also gave me something to do at that time, as I made my way through the "system."

Once I arrived on the "other side," that is, had successful surgery and was discharged, I consulted my notes and began writing immediately. The last essays I had written were over 25 years ago in university. Since then my only writing was in emails, forum posts, and similar things; nothing "serious." Yet writing felt easy, as if I was a real writer, and I could vomit up inspired words with no effort at all. Furthermore, I even enjoyed poring over what I had just written, and editing and tweaking it and smoothing it out. It was a joy! It felt so satisfying! As I said earlier, writing did not feel like a choice: It was a necessity. It was like scratching an insatiable itch, and I needed to keep getting my words out to feel some relief.

I wanted to write about my adventure while it was still fresh, and I wanted to highlight some of the real heroes from my experience that I felt deserved recognition. I could have written Thank You letters, or bought Hallmark cards and added a little personal blurb, but to me it was more heartfelt and just "felt right" to type up my little story instead. And I decided even if no one saw my writing except my close friends and the heroes from my story, I was alright with that. (Note: As of me writing this sentence, I am 9 chapters into my hospital story, that I call "3 Days and 2 Nights," and 4 of 5 of the Big Heroes I recognize in my story have read at least some of my account and seen me praise them. So mission accomplished! Almost.)

Furthermore, I think my trick worked: I gained enough momentum while I was manic to keep this writing thing going now that I am, well, more normal. Ish. The mania is long gone, and I am no longer compelled to write. Now I simply enjoy doing it. Luckily, I still have plenty to say, way beyond my appendix story. In the past few months I have written about aliens, nuclear power, my dry eye condition, aliens again, astronomy, and quite a lot of other stuff, too. But, I first caught the writing bug after having emergency surgery during a COVID lockdown here in Toronto. On that note...

May I present: "3 Days and 2 Nights"...


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