Guest Blogger: William L. Alton on Writing

Listen to this post read by poet William L. Alton:

I don’t want to steal Bill’s thunder, but I have one funny thing to share. The other day I told Bill about this blog and asked him for the first time if he would contribute to it. I was mad at myself for not inviting him sooner. He thought it sounded cool and wrote the post below.

When I logged on this morning to post it I noticed his name was already on a post. I went to investigate, and sure enough there was another blog post from an earlier date there already.

Bill and I both completely forgot that we had already talked about him being a guest blogger. That scares me because my memory has been getting worse in the past few months. Also, it is utterly hilarious that both of us, brain-injured, forgot we were having a conversation for the second time. It seemed so new and interesting the second time we talked about it. I can’t remember the first conversation at all.

Here is a drawing he did years ago that was used for the “No One Wants to See the Wires” performance with Impetus Arts where I met him.

A pastel sketch of a nude, skinny man sitting, hunched over, facing away by William L. Alton.
Here’s what he wrote for this blog.

“I write because it’s the only way I know how to communicate what’s going on in my head. If I can’t tell people about it, if I can’t write about it, the voices, the fears and neurotic obsessions build up a pressure that drives me to self-destruction. Not that the writing is cathartic. It doesn’t get rid of the things making me crazy, but it allows me to put them in order so I can think about them rationally.

Without my writing, I have a hard time communicating in a linear fashion. Since my brain injury, since my bi-polar/schizo-affective diagnosis, I have not been able to think in a fashion that makes sense to people who can line their lives and priorities up one at a time and deal with them as they come. Everything happens all at once in my mind. I see the beginning, the middle and the end simultaneously. Writing allows me to put my thoughts, the images that come to mind down on paper and I can see them outside of the diaphanous fog of my head. I can read them and say to myself, this comes first, then this, and finally this. Instead of seeing the whole thing jumbled together, I can find the flow of the story, the lines, one after another and put them in order, like a child putting numbered blocks in the correct sequence.

Writing allows me to say the things I cannot say out loud. I can say them in a way that makes sense to people who do not have a mental illness or a brain injury or to people who do live with these things, but communicate differently that I do. I can make people see what it’s like to live in my head and for a moment, understand what it’s like to stare into a swirling mass of words and colors and images without confusing them with the jumble and tumble of ideas and thoughts that come to me at any given time.”