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Writing as Part of The Healing Process with Eliot Waistlin

Tell us about yourself. I'm Eliot, which is a pseudonym. I'm from Canada, and I've been writing since high school, really, for the last 25 years or so. I've published and blogged quite a bit under my usual name, but I decided to start writing erotica a number of years back, and chose a pen name. I always had an eye on publishing fiction, but I bounced around different fields, doing sports and music writing for different websites and blogs, trying to build an audience for myself, and draw attention to the stuff I was self-publishing. I did some cool work and made a lot of friends, but never gained a lot of traction doing that, and eventually backed off. When I was starting out, a lot of the fiction I was writing was the typical Beat Poet inspired, sex and drugs, drinking and fighting type of stuff. When I was looking for places to publish my stuff, I discovered there were websites that were paying markets for short erotica, so I started writing for those sites, at first submitting stuff I'd already written, and then writing new erotic stories. When ebooks started taking off, some of those sites disappeared, and I switched my focus to publishing my own stuff under a pen name. What inspired you to first start writing in high school and what inspires you now? When I was a kid I loved drawing comics, and that's how I started with story-telling. At some point my writing abilities surpassed my drawing skills, so I just carried on with writing. I was doing Dungeons and Dragons knock-off stuff when I was a kid, and then just carried on with different things as my reading tastes developed. As for inspiration these days, writing is as much a compulsion as anything else. I'm always thinking up scenarios, and if I don't write them, they just stay in my head swirling around until I finally get them out. The novel I'm working on at the moment, a science fiction piece, has been trying to get out for twelve years or so.

Wow, it seems like you’ve weaved through a lot of different genres in your writing journey. I've written everything. I spent sometime ghostwriting erotica, where I had to adjust to whatever theme or subgenre the client wanted. Valuable experience maybe, but it burned me out for quite a while.

Burned you out on what exactly? Writing or ghostwriting in particular?

Ghostwriting burned me out on all writing. The rates are terrible, so to make any money you have to produce huge word-counts quickly, writing subject matter that might not even appeal to you. I wrote way too much and depleted myself. I think I probably went a year or more without doing any writing at all when I finally quit ghosting. That sounds like it would be difficult. What brought you back to writing and how long ago was that? I wrote this and that for a few years, some stuff under my own name, but nothing very focused. I had a lot going on in my life, including some fairly serious personal challenges. I've been an alcoholic since my early twenties. About six months ago I quit drinking, and as my brain gradually got untangled, I had this tremendous urge to start writing fiction again. So I started writing a novel about being an alcoholic. I planned it to be an erotic novel, but it strayed too far from the desire formula that typifies erotica, so it ended up being an adult novel with a lot of sex in it.

A lot. A lot of sex. Including some fairly strong kink.

First off, congratulations on being six months sober. That is a really big deal, and I’m so proud of your strength for doing what’s best for yourself and your family. This is your most recent novel, correct? Can you tell me more about the book and what it was like writing that subject matter during that time in your life? Yes, this is my latest. I released it a few weeks ago. It was cathartic to really describe my drinking in an honest way. The protagonist is stuck at the part of the cycle where he knows he needs to quit, and keeps trying to quit, but slips every time he has an opportunity to drink. I was attending Alcoholics Anonymous at the time, and I sent my character there as well, although it doesn't stick right away for him. There are women in his life, and he's trying to get himself straightened out so that he can give himself a chance at a half-decent life, but his addiction is very strong.

What do you think made this novel cathartic for you as you were working on your own addiction? And was there anything particularly difficult about writing it? I think being about to write about this character really, really drinking gave me an outlet when I wanted to be drinking but couldn't. One thing about alcoholics is that while they are still drinking, they are rarely fully honest, with themselves or others, about their drinking. That's the critical thing about AA: it insists upon honesty and reinforces that you'll never be able to overcome the disease unless you are rigorously honest with yourself. Writing about this character allowed me to express a lot of things I hadn't put into words before.

I think writing can be immensely therapeutic. I find a lot of my own short stories come from things I’ve personally experienced and things I’m trying to work through. That being said, sometimes that was extremely difficult, though ultimately healing to do. It isn’t always easy to be honest with ourselves or face our demons. I agree completely, although in this case, it wasn't difficult. I set a goal to try and write 1000 words a day, and the material flowed and flowed. I was often well over 1000. I think it was because the material was close enough to my experience that it didn't require a lot of invention, except for the sex scenes, which are always easy and fun for me to write anyway.

I can imagine lol. Tell me about what you’re currently working on. It's a science fiction story dealing with a very remote, desolate world, and the characters that end up there. It's a story that I've approached from many different angles over the years, but couldn't make it work. It's going to have some psychedelic sections, which I'm looking forward to writing. Psychic drugs, dream sequences, and the like. Kind of a lush experience inside this harsh environment.

That seems like quite a branch off from erotica or have you found ways to intersect the genres? It will have strong erotic themes. Male/female and lesbian pairings, as well as some different kinks. Obviously, addiction isn’t something that ever really goes away. Do you feel that your writing is still helping your on this journey? If so, can you elaborate on that? I think having something to focus on is important. If you have nothing to work on, your mind can wander to using. Writing for me is a stress reliever, and it gives me daily goals, which are all useful to staying on track.

I know you have kiddos so what daily goals do you set for yourself and how do you balance always making time for it? I've had a harder time hitting a thousand words a day now that they're home from school. Often if I can't get work done during the day, I'll think, "No problem, I'll get some work done after they're in bed." And then I'm always exhausted by then, ha ha. Let's just say I'm not hitting my goals consistently, but I'm doing my best. I can’t thank you enough for being willing to share your journey with me. Writing is really a healing thing and I’m sure lots of people will be able to relate with this. For my last two questions, I ask the same of every writer. First what is a random fact about you, the sillier, the better?

During university, to try and develop confidence, I posed nude as an artist's model for a life drawing class in front of 20 or 30 of my peers. Wow. Talk about daring. I was pretty nervous. I bet! I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Lastly, if you could give one piece of advicr another writer what would it be?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Work on your grammar. Be open to criticism. Don't take yourself too seriously. If you love writing, you'll keep doing it, so you might as well make the effort to do it well. That's several pieces of advice. One quotation that I've like for a long time is from Baudelaire: "Inspiration comes from working every day."

I love it. Thank you so much for your time!


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