A few weeks ago, I read Ethan’s post, Living More Than You Exist. In it, he talks about his recent health issues and how living “on borrowed time” has affected his perspective as a person and as a writer.
As writers and artists, we are always learning about ourselves through our writing and through our experiences, each of which affect the other. I have always believed that reacting in a positive way to negative experiences is the strongest thing a person can do. It helps us to grow and to learn, and as writers, it helps us turn life into stories. But it’s also difficult. When you’re standing in the middle of a storm, it can be damn hard to see anything but black clouds.
That’s why I was so inspired by not only Ethan’s story, but by his tone and his outlook. He has the sort of strength and energy that makes me want to work harder, be stronger, and use every gift I am given. I hope his story and this Q&A does the same for you.
Without further ado, Ethan Michael Carter!
You have faced some serious challenges and struggles. Can you tell us a bit about them?
I've faced many challenges, so in order to prevent this article from becoming too morbid, I'll narrow it down to three:
In my teens, I experienced homelessness for a month. During this time, I got to "taste" what it's like to be hungry. Being in a position of having nothing—not even food or shelter—taught me how to survive and has given me the gift of self reliance.
In 2009 I lost my pregnant fiancée (Sam) in a car accident. Sam was driving to see me after visiting her parents and due to pregnancy-related complications, she passed out at the wheel while driving. This has to be the most traumatic of all experiences. I honestly felt as if my soul had been torn in half.
At present, I'm dealing with brain aneurisms which have put me on hospital on a few occasions now. The aneurisms are life-threatening and have, on a few instances now, resulted in me technically dying on my way to hospitals in ambulances for a few minutes at a time.
What advice would you give someone facing similar challenges?
Don't resign yourself to defeat, and never give up.
Our thoughts govern more than our mood. Our current thoughts are in fact precursors to what we will later experience.
So if you start thinking negatively or allow your problems to drown you, it's game over.
I know what I'm saying sounds easier said than done, especially when you're experiencing hardship. I also know that the natural reaction for most people is to complain about the situation that they are in.
But, all that complaining and thinking about a problem really does is feed the problem.
If you really wish to transcend the particular hardship that you're experiencing, you have to think about what you want, not what you don't want.
By focusing on what you want, and doing so consistently, you will put yourself in a situation where you can attract and create the future you want.
It's not easy to do this. It takes a lot of self discipline, but the results will astound you.
How have the struggles you’ve faced changed you as a person?
I feel that I've become more resilient as a man.
Every struggle (challenge) that I've faced has built my character; the process is very much akin to that of how a muscle is strengthened through facing resistance.
I think challenges (as bad as they can sometimes be) are like a workout for your soul.
Each challenge in life gives you an opportunity—the opportunity to either curl up into a ball or grow stronger as a person.
How did you first get into ghostwriting?
I actually got into it by accident.
During the early days of my career, or the "Will write for food" days as I like to call them, I was finding it hard to get by financially.
As someone who loves screenwriting, I was trying to get hired by various film and TV studios, and I'd send hundreds of letters out to these studios weekly.
Eventually, one of the studios caved in to my persistence (or maybe they ran out of room for my letters in their office bin) and offered me a ghostwriting position. If I'm honest, I thought ghostwriters only existed in the literary world, but to my surprise they also existed in studio work.
Hence my ghostwriting career was born.
What’s next for you and your writing?
Well with all the recent health scares, I've now decided to pursue a new path.
I say "new" but it's more of a return to an original path.
When I originally began my writing career, it was to write certain kinds of scripts and to build my name within my chosen field.
As a ghostwriter, I've had a good degree of success, but now I feel like it's time to write the things I want and to take my career to the next level.
So, I've decided to move away from ghostwriting and embrace some new projects for myself. This will include writing a screenplay for an idea that's been in my head for a while now. I will also be writing a motivational book that revolves around my life philosophies.
How does it feel to make such a large change to your career path?
I've found adaptability is a key component to success.
I've ghostwritten books, scripts, and magazine articles, all of which required different skills. So I'm very adept on how to deal with change.
It feels good to now be working on projects that won't be ghostwritten and projects with which I can enjoy full creative freedom.
I guess in many ways the "ghost" element of my career is now dead—AKA the ghost is dead!
Have your experiences made you a better writer?
Yes, I would definitely say that my experiences have made me a better writer.
Every experience (good or bad) has crafted the way I write. I constantly delve into my experiences to inject emotion and feeling into my writing.
I would even go as far as saying that without having faced some of the life challenges that I have, I may not have even become a writer.
Can you tell us about your mantra, “Live more than you exist”?
The mantra is something I was told by my mentor when I was in my teens. At that point in time, I was very disillusioned and lost. My mentor's advice was, "Ethan, you need to live more than you exist." The mantra spoke to me on many levels, and became the cornerstone of my life philosophy.
It has now evolved into my personal brand.
How do you deal with negative thoughts and emotions?
Thoughts and emotions are very powerful. So I generally keep a close watch on what I'm thinking.
Obviously, negative thoughts are bound to enter my mind from time to time. When that happens, I don't fight negative thoughts, I just replace them with positive thoughts.
It's easier to replace a negative thought, than it is to stop yourself from having one.
Coming back to what I said earlier, it's best to think about what you want, and not what you don't want.
Is there anything else you would like to share? Any final thoughts?
If you have a dream, that's good. But now dream bigger!
Many people live life with constraints and limitations. Society as a whole doesn't encourage people to pursue their dreams or passions—especially when those dreams or passions are not part of what is considered to be the norm.
As a result, most people's dreams are not true reflections of what they have in their heart. Instead, what most people call "dreams" or "passions" are simply what they think would be "acceptable' to others or things that have a decreased chance of being mocked.
I would urge people to reevaluate (even find) their REAL dreams and passions; and to do so without regard for what other people might think.
Find your personal truth, and then RUN toward that truth with unapologetic self belief. Or simply put: Live more than you exist!