Thursday 14 February 2019

What Matt Whiteside learnt when he started writing

I recently did an interview on the YouTube channel of an enthusiastic and witty indie writer called Matt Whiteside. We had a lot of fun doing the interview and Matt's enthusiasm for writing and communicating with others is infectious and disarming. I knew he was busy trying to get his name out there, so I offered Matt a guest post slot on my humble blog. What he sent me was not the usual kind of post I get from writers. This is not just about selling his books (though I am sure he would love you to buy them). What Matt sent me is a lot more powerful and inspiring than a sales pitch. I hope you agree.

What I learnt the day I died

by Matt Whiteside

The darkness in the room was filled with the glow of a small light coming from my phone. It was the only thing that had kept me company in my prison of hell and misery.

I had only taken the time to get out of bed twice in the last couple of weeks to go to the liquor store to replenish my supply of vodka. I was consuming the stuff at a click of half a gallon per day.

The smell in the room would make any visitor jump back in disgust as the putrid sweat that poured from me was filled with poison. My body was failing me, and my mind had long since left.

I was closer to death than I had ever been. The type of death that no one really wants to talk about. The kind that sits in your mind and slowly pokes you. Whispering for your attention, for your money, your family, your motivation and hopes.  The kind that finally whispers for your life.

I was dying from alcoholism, and I saw no way out. I had come to the conclusion that the best I could hope for was to drink enough to not wake up. I tried, every night for months, but still, I woke.

That was eight months ago.

I start with this for a reason. I start my story here for a purpose.

I wanted to die, and so I did. The “ME” that hated himself for a lifetime of regret had finally died. In fire and flame, the version of me that could no longer be a part of this world passed on.

And so this is where my story begins, at the beginning of my new life.

Eight months later I am sober and the proud publisher of two books. Dead Heart: An Origin Story and Trent Foster and The Council of 10.  Dead Heart hit number one on an Amazon bestsellers list the first week it was out.

I wrote the two stories in three months. After getting sober and working a program, I realized it wasn't just the way I looked at life that needed to change, I needed to completely change the way I lived. My entire approach to living had to become something new.

So, I took an honest look at what I loved doing. I asked myself the question, "if you could do anything for the rest of your life and money wasn't an issue what would you do?"  The answer was clear to me: Writing.

I made a decision five months ago to trust that although I could not see a path to where I was making money as a writer, I had to follow the things that lit me up.  I could no longer live a life full of lies chasing after the material things, hoping that somehow they would fulfill me.

Instead, I decided to trust that as long as I was taking action on a path that lit me up, I would be OK. I mean, I survived the Hell of alcoholism, why couldn't I survive doing something I loved? The journey thus far has not been easy.  It is not easy being broke and without a real sustainable income, but it is worth it to me.

So, what does any of this have to do with what I learned from writing these books?  Well, I am glad you asked.  Because it has everything to do with it.

Starting with my first book, Dead Heart. I set out to write a story of inspiration about a man that lost his legs. What ended up coming out was a story of finding yourself after dying and becoming the person you were meant to be.

You see, Dead Heart is a story about a knight that gets killed in battle and is turned into a zombie.  But, he has to overcome his apparent shortcomings, such as not having legs - they were literally cut off - and being freaking dead!

I realized while writing that whether I write literally or metaphorically the truth will come out as long as I am open to writing what comes to me.  See, I didn't mean for the story to be a metaphor for dying from alcohol and rising as an alcoholic to go out in the world and try and prove my worth and become the man I was supposed to be, even with my obvious shortfalls.

But it happened.

My second book, Trent Foster and The Council of 10, was a lot the same.  I set out to write a Sci-Fi story about a man who finds out he has powers and is wanted by other alien species to use his abilities for their ends.

The story ended up changing my life, Trent Foster goes from being a man at the end of his rope, ready to throw in the towel on his life, to realizing he has unlimited potential; that he is seemingly capable of anything and everything, if only he could bury his past and let the things die that have previously held him back.

Again, it was not meant to be a metaphor for me realizing that by working a program of recovery and setting free the demons of my past I had an unknown ability to be and do anything.

Coming to peace with the horrible stories I told myself was a result of writing a children's fantasy novella and a Sci-Fi thriller. I was astounded by what came out when I just began to write the stories that I love. My story could not help but come out, it was being processed in my writing.

I learned that the most significant thing I can do for myself and others is to tell my story. It is my story and whether it comes out as a fantasy, a thriller, historical fiction or memoir. It is my story, and only I can tell it in the way I was meant to tell it.

Without judgment, without hate or disgust. I had to be willing to get honest in my fiction and learn to write as authentically as was humanly possible. Because whether you write fiction or non-fiction the stuff that grips us is authentic. It is visceral and real, sometimes it hits you square between the eyes and makes you want to call your loved ones, and maybe rethink some parts of your life.

But, I learned that this is what makes great storytelling. As unreal as the scenarios may be, the truth will speak through your writing if you let it.

Think of it as an anchor to keep your ship from being tossed around during a storm The story is the storm, the truth and authenticity is the anchor.

The revelation that came from writing these books propelled me to write a third, I am currently 60,000 words into my next novel, and my life has transformed.

I mentioned how it is tough being broke, well, that is true. You know they say money: can't buy happiness. I believe this to be true, but it can make being happy more fun!

I now get to spend every day doing what I love, and I can see a path forming on which I walk each day. I can see that the sun is shining a beautiful array of colors directly in front of me, inviting me forward.

I know with 100% certainty now for the first time in my life I am on the right path. And it is because of my program of recovery, but also writing that led me to that realization.

I must be willing to die each day, shedding the old Matt, and be reborn each morning anew with all the possibilities and opportunities I could ever imagine staring me directly in the face.

So what do I do now?

Well, I write a spiritual, motivational blog every morning. I record funny and inspirational podcasts with my girlfriend almost every day. I write every day, working on my third book, The Incredible Rhett Smiley.  I interview authors such as the gracious Matthew Harffy for my YouTube channel UniWeb Productions. I lead meetings and sponsor other alcoholics. I review video games on my channel, Suck On Hard Gaming, a channel for people who suck at video games.

I spend time with my children, my girlfriend, my mom and my friends almost every day. My life is fuller and happier than it has ever been because….

I learned that the greatest gift I can give to the world is my story. So, I will allow the magic of the story to flow through me however it must to clear the channel for whatever gifts lie in the words I write.

Writing is a gift that everyone can learn. I know all I need to do to be a writer is to write. If I want to be a good writer, I must write a lot and get better every day. However, we can all write and when we become willing to tell our stories, the world becomes a better place where every person has a voice and inherent value.

Check out all the ridiculous crap I get into at the links included here. Thanks and have an awesome day.

I made a video as well so that you can watch me and try and work out what the hell I was trying to say in writing.  Enjoy.


UniWeb Productions: We do entertaining author interviews, live book readings, and reviews and have one hell of a time.

Suck On Hard Gaming:  A channel dedicated to throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. I also play a lot of games on here. Meaning I spend a lot of time getting cussed out by 9-year-olds.  Enjoy watching my failure.

Matt Whiteside's Blog:  Every morning I write motivational, inspirational, and recovery based articles about better living and finding your purpose.

Matt's Podcast, This Won’t Work:  A radio show looking for purpose and speaking the truth that I uncover every day in a fun and silly way with my girlfriend. I record video and audio to go along with this writing, so you could hear me, see me and read me. I don’t like giving people an excuse not to hear my story!

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattWhiteside3

Video Interview with writer Matt Whiteside

A few days ago, I did an interview on a new YouTube channel run by indie writer, Matt Whiteside. It was a fun interview and we talked about lots of things including writing, getting published, history, castles and swords. And I even read a few lines from my very latest work in progress, Dark Frontier.

Check it out and subscribe to Matt's UniWeb Channel for more author interviews.