Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

A Writer Like My Dad

Posted on | July 10, 2017 | No Comments

I think I wanted to become a writer because it seemed like the simplest way to become my dad when I grew up.

My dad’s great.

They call him Stephen “The Cuban” Kimber.

For decades he inspired journalism students to take the news seriously and helped them careers in an industry where that was still possible. He’s a quiet man who loves stirring up shit and has been responsible for exposing a good many scandals local and international.  He is a pinko commie rabble rouser who somehow temporarily changed the international relations between America and Cuba before Trump decided to fuck things up again. He doesn’t stop trying to become a better writer or a better person. He’s still hungry for that next big story.  He’s always working on a new book or journalistic investigation into government and corporate corporation. There will be no real retirement for Stephen Kimber. Because he’ll never stop being that kid that sat down at a typewriter and realized he could change the world by paying attention to it.

He talks slow while I talk fast.

We look nothing alike. He’s got dark hair that is sprouting a little more silver everytime I see him. He’s got a nose that would indicate he was my Jewish parent (he isn’t) and I have got the nose of an Aryan conqueror (my Jewish mother’s) . We don’t have the same eyes. The only common characteristic is that we both maintain a strangely naive face of a child. Like the world still hits us with wonder. Like we never really grew up and occassionally put on a serious face to hide it.

To say I was attached to him as a child was an understatement.

Wherever he would go, I would try to follow. Which is funny because my dad is easily startled and also a little unaware of his surroundings. He’d be working out on the Norda-Track, and I would knock on the door to his office. He’d be lost in the music he was listening to or the book he was reading and I would say his name and he would jump and make that surprised sound where you spit out the breath you’d just taken in. After a few questions he’d calm down and asked me what’s up.

He listened to me talk a lot.

I talk a lot now but as a kid I literally never shut up.

He was patient and he’d take what I said seriously. My first book was called GamesMaster’s Games and was essentially Mortal Kombat with different character names. One of the villains names was Stanco. Times Magazine labelled it a masterpiece.

He printed out copies and I gave them to all my family members as a Christmas gift.

We got a dog named Gabby. She liked to go for walks after dinner and my dad would take me with them to Point Pleasant Park.

I’d ramble about my latest book. Which were usually well outside of my life experience. One was about a schizophrenic mafia boss who went to war with his enemies and an alternate personality. Which was essentially my experience in grade 4.  The plots were very complicated. And I felt like I needed to tell him every single beat of the story and he’d point out design flaws and encourage me to actually sit down and write it.

I did.

He’d edit my books and I’d put the books on my shelf and he’d put them in a box I would someday look at and marvel at how much absolute shit I’d made him read.

I recently discovered a letter in my email from my father. It was 12 pages. Actually 12 pages.

I think it’s from 2005.  He was writing to me about my book For Four. Which was a fantasy novel. That’s plot could be boiled down to a simple observation: “I smoked pot. A lot of it.”

The letter is both complimentary and honest.

He praises my attempt to create a world with as many characters as the bible but notes its a little difficult to follow.

He not only read every word of the 350 page book. He also took extensive notes. He then sat down at his computer and wrote this email. Knowing that when I got it my heart would break.

He explained that the novel I’d spent three years on should be abandoned. That there was too much going on and fixing it would take too much of my time. He said there were flashes of what a great writer I could be but the book should be abandoned. So that I could learn the fundamentals.

I was 20. And I wasn’t ready to hear it.

I also lacked the perspective to understand what it’d be like to send a letter like that.

I’ve read pieces written by other writers who deserved letters like this. Giving feedback is a tremendous responsibility.  Sometimes I sent the email and sometimes I didn’t. An honest and hurtful criticism is a kindness you give someone if you truly believe they can do better. My dad always believed I could do better.

I wasn’t always ready to do better. I spent three more years on the book and this time he asked to read it. Knowing that I wasn’t showing anyone. And that I desperately needed to hear something positive.

At 25 I finished the book and quickly fell into a six month long depression.

As I started this descent he asked to read the latest draft of the book.

Which I had edited and worked on for years and he wrote me another long letter.

This time about how proud of me he was that I had spent the time and made something that had such beautiful moments. He told me I needed to write a query to submit to writing agents and that he’d edit it.

We did and no one ever responded.

But he told me I should write something else. That he’d read it. That I was getting close.

In the midst of my depression I wrote a 10,000 story about my girlfriend as a unicorn.

He helped me edit it. He took me for doctor’s visits. He waited for me to start talking his ear off again with my story ideas.  Time passed. I got better.

My desire to be a writer took me away from Halifax. I moved to Toronto.

We talk on the phone. Sometimes for hours at a time about the stories we are working on. As I have gotten older he’s started sharing his own ideas and getting my advice. He’s always a little excited to tell me about it. The thoughts have spent a lot of time brewing in his head and there aren’t a lot of people you can talk about the places you go in your head. Because it really is something only other neurotic writers can understand.

We share our lives and our feelings and what we’ve been thinking about. We say we love eachother at the end of every phone call.

But our most important conversations are about things that never actually happened.

We mainly talk about stories we are working on. It’s like a secret language we have.  A way to say I know that you go to a place no one else goes to and sometimes I want to bring you there with me because you’re important.

I talk about a lot of things with my dad. When times are bad they’re practical and he gives me advice.

When times are good and even when they’re really bad we talk about stories.

A lot of writers feel uncomfortable when they sit down and start typing. Perfectionism hits before they can really even dip their feet into the water.  The process gets caught up in the result and they get frozen. They need a drink. They look at the blank page and they get up from their desk.

I don’t.

Writing is a place of peace for me.

I think a lot of that is because when I sit down and write it brings back both those conversations with my dad. Where I can say anything and he would listen. Where anything is possible if you have the courage to imagine it. I think that in a lot of ways I’m the best person I can be at that table, with my fingers on that keyboard.

I know I have a lot to learn and I can get there. That this process is going to break my heart sometimes and that’s going to make me better.

A place where I have the curiosity of a boy and the bravery of a man.

We’ve talked about a million things but when we talk about writing it’s not really about sitting down and typing, editing, outlining or getting published. But a way to live. To fully commit to the beauty of being alive, making mistakes and daring to connect with people. To know the world is so vast, it’s impossible to understand it in its totality. But that a person can be imbued with the same force of gravity that moves planets and galaxies. If you love something enough to try to understand it you can become a part of a force that moves everything.

A force that feels almost unimaginably powerful.

A force that feels like being seven years old and going for a walk in Point Pleasant Park, holding my dad’s hand.

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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