There are subjects that men do not generally talk about: Fear. Doubt. Low self-esteem. Insecurities. Weaknesses. There are questions we generally do not ask, but they can plague our minds: “How do I deal with loneliness? How can I raise my level of self-confidence? Why can’t I fit in with the crowd? What if no one sees the value in me?”
Men do not ask for help. Men do not cry. Men do not show any signs of weakness. We are strong. We are invincible. We feel no pain. Our confidence never falters. This is what we say. This is what we do. But this is not how we, as a whole, feel.
As I began my journey into adulthood, I realized the persona of what I was led to believe a man should be was a standard I could not meet. I believed in God, but I did not believe in me. I felt fear. I felt anxiety. I felt insecure. And I could tell no one about it. Instead, I began to write my feelings down in the form of poetry on scraps of paper. This process helped me to be honest with myself about who I saw in the mirror.
As you read through, maybe it can help you, too.
Today, the collection of my poems from January 2001 to July 2009 is available for all to see. Some witness. Some inspire. But most face the challenges and questions I tried to ignore. I needed to escape from the cage society built long ago. I needed to break out of the prison that ensnared my heart. I needed to rip away at the mold I was trying to fit into. Perhaps, underneath, I could see the beginning of me.
– Eric Christopher Jackson
I am afraid to dream
I am afraid to drive
I am afraid to live
And afraid to die
I am afraid to sail
I am afraid to succeed
I am afraid to increase
And afraid to believe
All of my life
I wanted to achieve
So what I cannot do
Is accept all these lies
January 1, 2009
Q&A WITH RADIO INTERVIEWER, DON McCAULY
Don McCauly: Tell us about this book. Who did you write your book for?
Originally, I wrote the book for myself. I needed an avenue to express my emotions. Many times, I didn’t realize I felt a certain way until I began to write. So, poetry became a way to examine where I was in my life.
DM: Is there a central message in the book?
The book is really about how my relationship with God developed over time. It started out as being closer to a religious experience. Gradually, I wanted to know Him in a personal way.
DM: If you had to choose, what would you say is the single most important idea you’re sharing in your book that is really going to add value to the reader’s life?
People will understand that when you give your life to Jesus Christ, your life will not be perfect from that point forward. There is not an absence of pain, fear, disappointment, rejection, or tragedy. You will cry. You will worry. You will doubt your own beliefs. You will still be a normal human being.
However, you will come to realize that in spite of all the negative things that occur, you will overcome the challenges and obstacles of life. Jesus is always here, not only to give you strength, but to help you move forward. And when you feel like you don’t want to wake up another day, He will give you the will to live on.
DM: If you could compare this book with any book out there we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?
All of my inspiration comes from the Bible, specifically the Psalms of David. Whenever he wrote a psalm, he was very honest about his feelings and emotions, whether positive or negative. He didn’t always understand or agree with what God allowed to happen in his life. Yet, he was determined to hold on to his faith in God. Ultimately, he understood that God would solve all of his problems. He just needed to focus on not giving up on Him.
I follow this pattern many times in my poetry. While some poems teach readers certain truths about God, many of them focus on what a relationship with God really looks like on a daily basis.
DM: When did you start writing this book?
January 1, 2001. I would grab a notebook or scraps of paper and simply write out my thoughts. I would make sure to include the date because I wanted to remember how I felt on a particular day.
DM: When did you realize your work could become a collection?
By the end of 2002, I began to realize I was developing a skill to write poetry, even though I had not taken classes on the subject.
DM: How long have you been writing poetry?
Although I did write poetry before 2001, I never took any of it seriously. I didn’t keep track of my work in grade school and I stopped writing poetry by high school. So, I would have to say New Year’s 2001 was the beginning.
DM: Is there a theme for this collection of work?
It primarily deals with the relationship between an individual and God. If you truly want to be a sincere, genuine Christian, you cannot treat God as a religious symbol. This is how I started. By the end of the book, I see God as an individual.
DM: Do you have a favorite poem in this collection? If so, what is it and why?
My favorite poem is “Cut” because I figured out of to take my personal struggle and turn it into a fictional story that more people can easily relate to. In a way, it’s like a parable.
DM: Are these poems about your life and a subject in general?
This is solely about my life, save the final poem of the book. I’m sharing these poems because I don’t think I’m the only one that has experienced these feelings. They can relate to the work and think of solutions in a way they may not have before.
DM: How much growth will readers see in your work as they read through the collection?
It’s funny because I realize the problems of loneliness, fear, and low self-esteem are not truly resolved by the end. However, I do improve along the way.
In the first chapter, I began to identify what was going on in my heart. I had issues with fear, loneliness, insecurities, etc. Next, I tried to figure out how to deal with these feelings because I didn’t ask anyone to help me in this process.
Finally, I learned to lean on God more and talk to Him about “everything.” Afterwards, I endured a season when God became silent and I searched for answers on my own. Ultimately, the book ends with my asking Him should I simply be content with where I was in life. This question is left unanswered.
DM: What inspired you to write the poem entitled, Cut?
I needed to be honest with myself about my addiction to pornography and what it was doing to my life. I couldn’t move forward while holding on to this vice. I needed to talk to God about this serious problem, but didn’t know how to face Him. In the end, this elaborate, detailed scene began to unfold in my mind and I simply wrote down what I saw.
DM: Why are the subjects of fear, self-esteem, and loneliness predominant subjects in the book?
These are the feelings that I hid, not only from other people, but from myself since elementary…especially middle school. But I never talked about them. I never told anyone. I was supposed to be a man. Strong. Invincible. So, when I started writing poetry at 22 years old, all of these things poured out of me naturally because they were bottled up for so long.
DM: What are the dangers of some of the emotions you write about?
It’s a prison in your mind. A tug-of-war. A battle that you can’t escape because it’s internal. You can get stuck at one spot in life because you don’t know how to change your thinking enough to move on. Yes, it’s great to believe in God, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never accomplish anything.
DM: Is this collection meant to be inspirational to the reader?
No, it is not, although there are a few encouraging poems included. More so, it’s meant to challenge the reader to “think” about their own feelings and how they perceive themselves. When they look in the mirror, what do they see? If their reaction towards their own reflection is negative, some of my poems can give them an idea on how to change their attitude about themselves.
DM: How would you describe your writing style?
My writing is very straight forward. My vocabulary is limited. To improve the work, I try to give readers a picture of a scene, tell a message through a simple story or life situation.
DM: Who influenced your writing the most?
I don’t have any favorite poets or authors. I haven’t read many books over the years outside of the Bible. In high school, I actually “enjoyed” reading the Gospels, the letters from Paul, the Psalms from David. It was better than any fictional novel. It was real history from centuries before. I was fascinated by it all. I would like my writing to impact others in a similar way.
DM: Are your characters pure fiction, or did you draw from people you know?
It may be weird to say, but sometimes, I had to step outside of myself to write about myself. It’s easier to point out someone else’s problems opposed to facing our own. So, I guess I found myself creating a character to represent me. Otherwise, it would have been too embarrassing to share what I have.
DM: Are you more of a character artist or a plot-driven writer?
The audience has to care about the character. I have to care about the character. If I don’t, it doesn’t matter what situation I put them in, my interest will fade rather quickly.
DM: Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?
I hope that it encourages readers to find out who God is as an individual opposed to a religious symbol. Because if you want to live the way He wants us to, He has to be more than an idea.
DM: Who should buy this book?
Honestly, it’s geared towards people, especially men, who are already Christians, yet, they have questions. They have struggles, insecurities, and doubts. They need to know that they’re not the only one with certain feelings or frustrations or disappointments.
DM: Where can readers find you and your book?
Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, and online venues like them.
I really enjoyed answering all of the questions. Thank you.