Why the Interlude

Greetings, friends.

As many of you know, mine is not a “personal” blog. While I write memoir for philosophical purposes on occasion, my primary mission in writing is to help people who “live on the edge” because of their mental health struggles, so I rarely post updates that are exclusively personal. In this case, I’m making an exception:

I wanted to post a brief explanation for why I haven’t written much this week and why my posts may be intermittent for this entire month:

I’ve taken yet another foray into home ownership. Hopefully this is the last time for a good decade or so. This will be my 4th home purchase (with three sales) and my seventh move in eight years. I should do a post about how living in high stress environments is addictive and tends to make you take more risks than you did before, but I’ll have to save that one for another time.

As many of you know, home buying is pretty stressful stuff and nothing ever goes as planned. BUT – I’m very thankful that my wife and I will have the lovely place below to call our home.

While dealing with the home purchase, we also added another member to our family – Lady will hopefully enjoy the fenced in back yard pictured above.

So – steady progress toward our long term goals, but it means taking a brief hiatus from writing so much.

Can’t wait to get back in touch with ya’ll! Keep us in your thoughts until then!

-TQV

Blogging Milestone #2 (And here's the value added)

Hello friends,

Today I reached 80 followers! I wanted to post briefly to thank you all for reading along, and summarize what I do for anyone else who might want to join the community.

I love to write, and pursue that in all its forms, but my heart is in revitalizing mental health culture and my destiny is to help the broken find healing. My favorite things to write about are philosophical concepts and self-betterment. Here are 9 of my blogs you may want to read if you have mental struggles, want to be a better person, or want to help someone else who may be struggling:

  1. Radical Authenticity Can Change The World
  2. The Whole Person Concept
  3. The Crux of America’s Mental Health Problem
  4. You CAN’T Regulate Suicide Prevention – Here’s What You CAN Do
  5. Managing Abnormal Stress Levels (Don’t Pull the Trigger!)
  6. Cancer Makes us Whole (Poem)
  7. Our Band-Aid Society
  8. Frozen With Fear (And How Not to Be)
  9. Four Books to Pull You Back from the Brink

If those helped bring you some peace, there are many more you can explore on my page. I also write about the cultural lessons I’ve learned as a blogger, and an example of that is my monthly post entitled, “Everything I’ve Learned About Blogging.”

I have a lot more planned and appreciate anyone following along. Lastly, I want to give props to one of the blogs that I really enjoy following and who has been a great support to me: Go check out Lovelorn, a fellow idealist and philosophical thinker.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who needs some mental health tools, and stay tuned for more on overcoming adversity through an attitude of resilience and defiance!

Thanks again for helping me reach 80 followers.

-TQV

Everything I’ve learned about blogging (June edition)

I shall begin this post with a bit of alliteration for my own amusement:

“Hello, honorable humans.”

Now, down to the crux of it: This post will no doubt get long, but I think there’s a lot of value added for ANY blogger. I’ve been developing and testing blogging strategies since I began this blog in May. I’ve learned a lot, and decided to compile it monthly in hopes that it will help others who are aspiring to build their network. I won’t take information away each month, I’ll just highlight new gouge so that people who have already read previously published portions can skip to the good stuff. This time, nothing needs to be in bold because it’s the first iteration. Here are some simple blogging strategies to help develop and expand your readership:

  1. Be predictable. What if I told you that this post about blogging strategies is an example of a blogging strategy? (Pretty obvious, many of you are thinking.) Anyone who has been blogging for long can tell you that a lot of what we do is about “value added,” and someone might follow my blog exclusively because they want to see what lessons I learn in the future that they can then apply. Once they’ve followed, they can decide whether they’re interested in my core mission, which is contributing to the fight on mental health issues. I think it’s nice to have a couple of “repeat posts” scheduled (ones where the theme doesn’t change but additional value can be added with each iteration). To that end, I’ve decided to do this (blogging strategy) and one other on a monthly basis. The other is a free networking opportunity for people to summarize and link to their blog in the comments of my post.
  2. Diversify within the confines of your brand. In addition to the scheduled posts mentioned above, I plan to VLOG once per week (the rules build upon each other, remember to be predictable) and post a song periodically (I don’t really have a schedule planned for that – this isn’t my full time job and I need to make the plan somewhat flexible to account for that. See rule number six.) Since my theme is essentially self-help, I can use different TYPES of posts to diversify within that brand. I write poetry to draw in the poets, music to draw in musicians, blogs to draw in old school bloggers, and VLOGs to attract people who prefer video to text. Figure out how you can impliment that idea for your brand. (As a self awareness point, I really need to get better about graphics/charts/etc.)
  3. Don’t migrate your previous work over all at once. When I first started TQV, I’d already been writing weekly articles on LinkedIn for some time. I decided that, in order to professionalize my portfolio, I wanted them all to be available on the site before I shared the link. Realistically though, few people have 6 hours to go through all of your work. Many will keep up with you if you post consistently, but only a few are going to really delve deep into everything you’ve written all at once. Instead of vomiting your life’s work onto your site, follow rule number four.
  4. Schedule posts! This one is SO SO hard for me because, when I write something I’m proud of, I want to share it to see what you guys and gals think. But if you’ve already posted, it’s much better to schedule it for the next day or so to make sure you have consistent content. If you want to maximize readers from this strategy, follow rule number five.
  5. Time matters. I’m not talking about the time you invest into your blog, though that clearly matters as well. I’m referring to the time of day. Since your blog posts are most visible during the first few hours after you post them, you need to try and learn when people are most likely to be reading. It’s probably not going to be 3AM, depending what time zone you’re in. For me, it’s ended up being early morning or around lunchtime, but be mindful of where your audience is and when they might want to peruse other peoples’ work.
  6. Be forgiving of yourself. As a recent writing friend of mine always says, “Writing is HARD.” It really is. This rule is honestly more important than any of the previous. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack. Remember that you’re doing this because you (presumably) love writing. Don’t push so much that you stop loving it.
  7. Don’t use ad income until you’re ready! I was using it. Totally, I was using it. I’m thinking, “Hell, the amount of time I invest into this thing, I may as well make what I can…” FALSE. I realized that I was spending more on my domain and advertising than I was making from ads. (BY A LONG SHOT). Why would you spend 50-100 bucks on your blog, and then distract new readers for the opportunity to earn a penny or two? My new strategy is to build the network first, and then implement some ad income and affiliate links.
  8. Don’t overthink your brand. People are so huge on branding that, often, bloggers will start multiple domains because they don’t want to break their brand. Your readers are dynamic, REAL human beings. They know you’re multifaceted. Don’t be scared to explore that with them. Or maybe I just get a pass on this one sense I essentially write about what it is to be human? Not sure.
  9. Help your supporters! This can be as simple as liking or commenting on posts, sharing a blog, or, as I learned just today, displaying your recent commenters on your home page. (Go check those people out, man. They consistently support me and I’m so appreciative.)

Okay, thanks for sticking with me so far. In addition to writing what I’ve learned about blogging, I also want to use this space to ask questions that I need help with. If you CAN answer, kindly do. 🙂

  1. Are hashtags still relevant?
  2. Have any of you hit a “wall” with viewers? I haven’t had much new action since I got into the seventies and I’d really like to break the infamous “100” mark.
  3. How important are graphics and photos?
  4. I’ve slowly connected with a few bloggers that are really kindred spirits (Peter, Nida, Cristian, Em, Nadine) …How do you find blogs that REALLY are concerned with the same mission as you? Is it really just being patient and “collecting them” over a period of months?
  5. If any of you would like to take a look at my site and offer any suggestions, I’d appreciate it and will return the favor (though I’m a total rookie, so I may not have much to suggest).

Lastly, I’m really starting to feel welcomed and accepted in this dysfunctional culture of awesomeness. I’m realizing that I can just be myself and support the healing of others, and that the world really is ready to accept that as a brand. Thanks for reading all this and following along, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll on the other side of the 100 follower mark.

-TQV

Free, Instant Networking Opportunity (June edition)

Hey guys and gals – I know there are a lot of super talented folks in my network at this point, and many who aren’t in my network yet.

For those in my network – post a piece that you’d like some extra visibility on, and I’ll share a few that align with my “mission” as time allows. For folks both in my network or outside of it, write a brief description of what your blog offers readers. I’ll be sure to take a look at it and I hope many of my friends will as well. I’m hoping to give back a little and share some of the inspiration ya’ll give me. Simple as that! I think I’ll do this monthly.

Thanks, much love.

TQV

A Wedding Speech

I recently had a very magical wedding ceremony with my wife (who I legally married in January) at the Grand Canyon. My best friend (a historian) officiated the wedding, using concepts from the middle ages and ancient Latin language, and it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I’m forever grateful to all involved, and wanted to share the words I wrote for my wife. What’s the point in freelancing if you can’t express thoughts from your personal life while doing so, and use the work to honor those you love? A few of the day’s photos are included below the text.

“Steven recently asked me if I had anything that I wanted to say during this ceremony, and I realized that there is a huge difference between “Not having anything to say,” and “not having to say anything.” Since that time, I decided to write a full-length speech about not having to say anything.
 
If you know me well, you know that public speaking and crowds are my greatest fears, and I chose to say these words not because they needed to be said – I know that this moment is as sacred to Amanda as it is to me, and nothing could change that. I chose to say them despite knowing that I’d probably get emotional because this without a doubt the single most sacred moment I’ll ever live through, and I want to honor it with authenticity and vulnerability by sharing it with all of you.  

Since the moment I met Amanda, she has always understood me and accepted me for who I am – accepted how I came to be this way. That may sound like some innocent, puppy-love statement, but the truth of the matter is that life and its lessons will always leave scars behind. You’ll rarely meet a person of compassion who hasn’t been denied it, or a person who advocates for others who hasn’t been beaten down by them.  

From the outside, the world sees a couple that met during a college field trip and returned the following year to take the plunge. They see pretty Instagram pictures and read adventurous blogs about hiking and the outdoors. They see love. And there is an indescribable amount of that shared between us, or I wouldn’t be standing here. But there’s so much more than that. 

What the world doesn’t see are the things we’ve overcome together, and the things we have yet to. They don’t see a medic who wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming from nightmares that torture the mind but paralyze the body. They don’t see a man clinging to the hope that there’s still goodness in the world, and kindness. And they don’t see the days where I lose that hope and plummet into a darkness that I have to scratch and claw my way out of. 

Yes, I’m a gentleman and I can be charming. Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful and wicked smart. Yes, we’re ferociously loyal to one another. But there’s a negative to balance every positive, destruction balances creation, and yin balances yang. I used to have so much noise in my head, and it doesn’t matter to me if anyone here can relate to that. When I’m in the presence of the person I trust the most in this great and terrible world, the noise goes away. I try to be aware of projecting, not to be too dependent, and not to cling to the comfort she gives my soul, but I always end up losing that fight and just appreciating the fact that she’s there and chose to love me back. And I think the thing that makes that okay is that she somehow feels the exact same way about me. 

We’re two humans who were so sick of the world that we were just about ready to move on to the next one, but instead, God – the universe – whatever synonym you choose to use…”The powers that be” decided to grant us the mercy of each other. Of friendship. Of a life where your inner voice becomes the outer one, and you know that your person would follow you into the pits of hell, but that they won’t have to because you met in those pits, where you’d each learned to survive alone, and together, were resurrected.Persuasive writing, empathy, and intuition have always been strengths of mine, and I have to say that it’s been utterly refreshing not to have to convince, explain or justify anything to Amanda. Any emotions this speech has invoked are baseline compared to what each of us see when we simply look at each other. Our connection has been so organic and natural since day one – a connection fostered by living in a tent for the first three months of our relationship. Unconditional love is an increasingly rare gift – but that’s what we have for each other.

On the surface, I’m the emotional one. I choose to wear my feelings openly, on occasion, to prove that the human experience is not a shameful thing, but one of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than the moments when I can connect to her emotions, though. To her spirit. To a thing that is so well sheltered because the world is such a cruel place. And it’s not that I break down walls to get to it, it’s that she trusts me enough to break them down for me. I promise that, until my last breath, I will dedicate every tool that I have to making her world one of beauty, and comfort, and trust. Thank you all for being here to witness our enlightenment – our Nirvana. For two souls that have been tormented by their lifelong separation have at last been reunited into one.”

Defining The Problem

For nearly two years, my primary mission in life (aside from typical distractions like working, paying bills, and finding inner peace) has been to write and publish my memoir, which was initially entitled “Depravity.”

I’ve achieved a number of goals and breakthroughs concerning the memoir, not the least of which was breaking the book into two parts and changing the title to “Depravity and Defiance”. For around the past year though, I’ve been at a virtual standstill when it comes to actually writing the damned thing. After months of contemplation, discussion with friends and mentors, and having a few test audiences read along, I’ve learned a few things, which I intend to process for myself in this article.

My primary mistake was based on a concept from the East – that clinging to outcomes and having (generally unrealistic or unenforceable) expectations only leads to stagnation and pain. The purpose of the memoir is to help people who have experienced trauma (which is virtually everyone) on their paths to overcoming it. My mistake has been visualizing the achievement of that goal by yearning for things like mass publication, a Pulitzer prize, or landing on the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I’ve been so focused on the book being translated into dozens of languages, overcoming cultural biases, and winning prestigious intellectual awards, that I’ve amassed this incredible amount of pressure for myself, which has largely prevented me from putting words on paper.

Additionally, while I’ve had an intangible idea for what I want the book to accomplish, I’ve never written it down. As a writer, I should know how important that is, but I’ve long neglected it. By way of a remedy, here is the defined list of life-events that I want to address in my book, which is something of a “Thesis on Life.” Since the book is a memoir, these are largely chronological and are written as I experienced them in my own past.

  1. The over-arching theme of the book is that humanity is a universal condition, not one to be ashamed of, and not one that we must atone for. Our best efforts need to be viewed with compassion toward the self, and passionate expression in writing is not sinful.
  2. It’s important to realize that we are the way we are for reasons, and that reflection and meditation on each piece of our lives will lead to a greater understanding of the whole. It isn’t enough to shove hard emotions into a box that we never open. We have to examine and process the emotions we’ve shoved away in order to maximize our potential and achieve our goals.
  3. Written from my own viewpoint throughout different stages in my life, the book begins with a 10 year old’s attempt to process the following: coming from a divorced/broken home, negotiating a life of inconsistency, growing up with different (and opposing) influences, and overcoming an initial introduction to loss and grief. When I lost one of my best friends at age 11, death (the balance to life) became incredibly tangible to me, and has been so ever since.
  4. Religion has been a primary influence in my life: I grew up in Pentecostal Churches, have lived with a Muslim tribe in the Horn of Africa, traveled to Central America and witnessed the influence of the Mayans, Voodoo, etc. I’ve also explored Eastern Religion and Yogic lines of thought associated with energies and spirits. Additionally, I was heavily influenced by Greek religious concepts and philosophies during my college studies, and I hope to share the cultural lessons I’ve learned from each. I aspire to break down the stigma that differences must be met with violence, hate, and pain. I also share my experience in processing multiple religions (including the pressure of loving people who have opposing beliefs) in hopes that others will be able to relate to the process. Allegory and parables are used in my book, as they are in many of the influencing sources. In part two, I share my current perspectives, not to convert, but to explore and express.
  5. The writing progresses to my early teenage years, where I attempt to negotiate the effects of parental alcoholism and violence on a young mind. I address my experiences with misogyny and the self-hate associated with toxic, angry masculinity. Throughout the entirety of the book, I address the multi-generational and highly contagious effects of masculine guilt and insecurity.
  6. My grandfather was a profound mentor and influencer in my life. I address how impactful healthy relationships can be for young people, even when they aren’t obviously so. I also address the process (from a young person’s perspective) associated with the loss of such an influence to cancer.
  7. Nearing the middle of book one, I discuss the spiraling cycle and rut that a lifetime of impactful events can have on a child’s mind. I explore internalization and the loneliness associated with not having an avenue of expression. I reflect on how that suppression can lead to violent thought (and eventually, to violent action), which perpetuates guilt and causes a deeper rut to be formed.
  8. The book explores young love, the cultural and religious pressure that causes young marriages (and subsequent divorces). Family values can cause young people to project things that aren’t there in their ambition toward achieving “the American dream.” I learn about the journey my parents were experiencing during my youth, as I experience it for myself in adulthood.
  9. I reflect on the impact and journey of military enlistment and the (many) demons that can accompany military service. I write about PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and the overuse of medication in treating veterans and others.
  10. I traverse the intelligence community, discover a number of truths about politics, government, and international relationships. I write about my journey as a father, both to my own daughter and to foster children. I write about achieving the American Dream.
  11. I write about my father’s diagnosis and battle with cancer – my experience with separating from service in order to support the family. I cover giving up, breaking down, and the confidence of authenticity that comes from just not giving a damn anymore. I explore how to recover from not giving a damn. I break the American dream into pieces and explore what my own dreams might be.

Book two is about my perspective as an adult, and how I (attempt to) balance and learn from the events listed above. 

Below is a list of people who I want the book to influence and help:

  1. Humans, or anyone who might know one.

Since the book is a thesis on life, I decided to pursue a mentor to hold me accountable for its progress and content. A special thank you to my mentor in completing this project. Also, to my readers, collaborators, and life influences.

An extra special thank you to anyone who accepts me for who I am and the mission that I have in the world rather than trying to change me into something else. Transmutation can be uncomfortable, particularly for the object being transmuted.

In a world of extremes, I hope to use difficult experiences and impactful language to snap people out of complacency and propel them forward in a journey toward balance and acknowledgment of the self.

More to come, for those crazy enough to read along. Much love. This one was written for me, really. Now, I’ve got some work to do.

-Dustin Stitt (Just a man who writes things, because that’s what he’s supposed to do.)