742. After Addiction and Recovery, Writing Saved His Life
Thomas M. Hewlett
“In rehab my head counselor asked, ‘Well, you have a second chance at life. You’ve chosen to stick around. What’s the one thing that you’ve always wanted to do and never did and now that you have a chance to do it, what is it?’ I didn’t even hesitate, I said, ‘Write a book. I want to write and finish a book.’ So he just gave me a level stare and he’s like ‘Okay, when we are done here, you’re going to go to the cafeteria and you can start writing.’ I had a blank notebook and I did exactly what he told me to do.”
Thomas M. Hewlett grew up in Los Angeles reading science fiction, fantasy, and all things paranormal. His plan was always to be a writer, but he strayed from the path and into drugs and alcohol addiction. In 2011, he hit rock bottom and ended up in rehab. At his lowest point, he rediscovered the power of writing and started his first novel, “One Death at a Time,” a combination of his experiences of addiction/recovery with his love of modern fantasy and noir mystery. Writing saved Thomas’s life and became his way of telling a new story about himself.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“Inspired by my middle school teacher, I started writing short stories. I had all these ideas floating around and I just decided to start putting them down with no idea where I was headed. Some were just a few pages, but it was just me exploring the world of writing from a very naïve and free standpoint. My teacher gave me some really good feedback and encouragement and he was very honest, too. When my writing wasn’t clear, he would ask me to clarify—this is good, this is not. This was very helpful to my development as a writer.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“In middle school I had a teacher who opened me up to a bigger world. He was very unconventional and did not teach like traditional teachers. He opened every class with free form writing. He would say, “You are going to write for five minutes.” When I asked what do we write about, he replied, ‘I don’t know, I don’t care, just write.’ This was completely new—and the feedback and encouragement to be as creative and intuitive as I wanted to be laid the groundwork for my own intellectual growth.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
“The good news about getting my English degree from Columbia University is that it is an old and traditional school with a long standing core curriculum. They take you from the writings of the ancient Greeks through post-war literature and beyond. What I found is that I was being trained how to learn for the first time in my life, which was extremely helpful to me and probably the single most important lesson I took away from my time there.”
Steps to Success from Thomas M. Hewlett
1. Take responsibility for your own education and career choices early on. Don’t get locked into other people’s systems and ideas about you.
2. Seek out people who are already a few steps ahead of you on their journey. Learn from them.
3. Tune into yourself and try to figure out what it is you have to contribute that is satisfying to you.
4. Start looking at work as a spiritual journey. I’m not talking about religion, but about how to connect yourself to the universe, to get close to who you are and how you can grow as a person.
On His Bookshelf
One Death at a Time, by Thomas M. Hewlett
Darkness of the Spirit, by Thomas M. Hewlett
A Devil of Your Own, by Thomas M. Hewlett
Connecting With Thomas M. Hewlett
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Topics: Addiction, Writer's Life