By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
When I was a child, living on a farm, the nearest daily newspaper was The Chronicle-Telegram, in Elyria, Ohio. I loved reading it every day and I had a dream that someday I would be published in that august periodical.
When I was about 12, the newspaper started a humor column: you could send in items that were funny, and if they liked yours, they’d publish it. I was so excited! The problem was, life on the farm wasn’t exactly a laugh fest. Still, I began looking for material.
Weeks later, I was going outside and my mom yelled, “Put on sunscreen!” I dutifully grabbed the can of foamy sunscreen and put it all over my arms and legs. It smelled weird, but I thought, “oh well.”
Later on, when I came home, my mom said to me, “You know that ‘sunscreen’? Do you know what it really was?”
I hate rhetorical questions, so I admitted that I didn’t know.
“Bathroom cleaning foam!” she chirped.
Eureka! At last, I had something funny to write about. I wrote it and they published it. I was a writer! (Thanks to bathroom cleaning foam).
In high school, I was the editor of the school newspaper. I had a dream: to change that school for the better. I wrote an editorial protesting some poorly executed school policy and suggested an alternative.
The power of the written word rules!
Not. I was called into the principal’s office and told, “You can’t say that, it’s too upsetting. We’re taking it out. Write something less controversial.” End of conversation. I protested to no avail.
About 15 years ago, while working as a psychotherapist, I started offering workshops, some specifically for gay, bisexual, and transgender men. Typically, after those workshops ended, there were always a few guys who came up and said — in whispered tones — “You’ve got to put this stuff in a book.”
My response was some version of “You’re very kind. Thank you so much.” And then I immediately forgot the idea. I was writing a column for the Gay and Lesbian Times and that was enough “writing” for me. But, the idea of writing a book took root. I dreamed about it, but had no idea how to make it happen.
A few years later, a writer friend of mine in Los Angeles saw some of my columns and recommended me to his publisher as a “potential” author. The publisher asked me to submit an idea for a book. I did. They liked it. Wow! Could this really happen?
Well, not really. What happened next was straight out of David Sedaris: The publisher assigned me to an editor, who was very encouraging and wanted me to send him new stuff almost every day. So I worked like a fiend, writing, rewriting, re-rewriting (is that a word?) for weeks until, finally, it seemed like we were getting close to something.
One day I got a strange email from the editor, telling me he had resigned from the publisher and suggested that I contact a writer’s agent he knew. I was in shock.
It gets worse. Do you know why Mr. Editor dumped me? So he could quit the publishing business and go into a Zen Ashram. My book was sacrificed for his peace of mind? How unfair.
So I pouted. For about two years (I’m good at pouting). Then I woke up and realized: I can still write the book.
And I did.
I have always enjoyed writing, mostly because I love reading. Writers are my heroes; Ariel Levy, Charles M. Blow and Frank Bruni are just a few of my favorite LGBT writers. I used to compare myself with them and decided that I wasn’t talented enough to write a book, until the universe kept nudging me to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work — over many years — but finally, on June 8, my dream came true.
So, at the risk of being sappy, I want to encourage YOU to hold onto YOUR dreams, whatever they are. If there is something you love to do but no one’s encouraging you; do it anyway. Don’t do it for the fame or money; do it because you love it and it makes you happy.
That’s why I write. And that’s why my dream came true.
[Editor’s note: This Saturday, June 24, from 2–5 p.m., Michael will be reading from and signing copies of his book, “A Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage,” in the lobby of Diversionary Theatre, located at 4545 Park Blvd., in University Heights. To learn more about Michael’s process for writing the book, see the interview with him elsewhere in this issue.]
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.