The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Ian A Griffiths

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Ian A Griffiths

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Summary: DMD Life Art and Me is one of the most moving autobiographies we've read in a while. Ian was happy to talk to us and it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
Date: 15 June 2011
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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DMD Life Art and Me is one of the most moving autobiographies we've read in a while. Ian was happy to talk to us and it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

  • Bookbag: Close your eyes and imagine your readers. Who do you see?

Ian A Griffiths: Well most plainly I see those directly affected with DMD but I really would like anyone to be interested in my book. There's a lot in there about other things, paintings, holidays, writing, love, family life and even a wedding! I want everyone to see it and think 'What is that all about?' I think it's a must for the medical professionals who come across complex disabilities.

  • BB: You have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which severely limits what you can do, but you are one of the most positive people I've met recently. Come on, Ian – we want to know the secret! How do you manage it?

IAG: The main boost to my positive attitude is a really great family, everyone encourages each other on down days, and I still do have them now and then haha. My mother always has been there for me, her determination keeps me going. Also massive is faith, in much bigger and brighter things to come, it helps put a whole new complexion on this world. Death just isn't the end.

  • BB: How long did it take you to write your book? What made you write it? We usually ask people where and how they write but anyone who has read your book will be able to work out the 'where'! When's your most productive time of day for writing? Do you enjoy doing it or was it something which you felt that you had to do?

IAG: It took me around ten months to write my book back in 2009/2010. I wrote it primarily for awareness of a disease no one seems to have heard of. Secondly a friend suggested why not write a book after I joked I should write one. How right a saying is 'many a true thing said in jest'. I found the night was best, around half nine or after eleven. In the morning I just didn't get the feeling to write, there are too many noises and distractions. I liked writing anyway from school but my proper writing started in 2007/2008, when I wrote poetry first and some short stories, but I think there was a need also to write things down and see what I've been though. Nearly dying in 2001 was a huge wake up call for me.

  • BB: I have a suspicion that you use speech-to-text software for your typing. I sometimes have to use it myself but I find it infuriating. How long did it take you to 'train' it to your voice? Does it still make silly mistakes?

IAG: Well actually I couldn't stand speech recognition programs after problems when I first used that technology, it really didn't like a Welsh accent haha. So I wrote it via the on-screen keyboard that is on most PC's these days. So I wrote one mouse click at a time, I could manage a thousand words a day when writing my book this way.

  • BB: You have a very strong faith. What convinced you that God was there for you and have you never felt angry with Him about your situation?

IAG: The amazing thing about faith is that it's not something a person works up, it's a belief God will do as He says, and an attitude while you wait that accepts God's ways and decisions. It's a gift from God to have this. Believe it or not God came to me, through some very surprising events being led to different books about Him I was led to the Holy bible and God's church. What God says through the bible is completely different to mainstream 'Christianity', so it's refreshing to see, but not everyone can understand it. It takes total commitment to God's spiritual laws. I don't feel angry at all because it's not actually a fault of God I have DMD. It's the breaking of God's physical laws by all mankind that causes disease all of course underpinned by Satan.

  • BB: Your book hides nothing about DMD. Most of it will be well-known to your family and friends, but how difficult was the decision to explain about your sexual feelings? I found that to be one of the most moving and thought-provoking parts of the book.

IAG: It was quite an agonizing decision to make but I wanted to include everything and be honest about my life up till that point. I also wanted to dispel the myth that it's not even thought about by disabled folk. My views since writing are a little different because I very much know that sex can only happen and be right within marriage, which is rather 'old fashioned' but the broken families and pain caused by the wrong uses of sex are hurting our world. Although I'm not here to judge or convert these are just my beliefs.

  • BB: Your nephew and niece will grow up knowing that disabled people are people first and the disability comes a lot further down the list of what they are. Do you think the world would be a better place if somehow everyone could have this insight? Does it annoy you that people in wheelchairs are assumed to be extensions of the wheelchair rather than people who have their own feelings just as everyone else does?

IAG: Sure the World would be much better if we weren't all too quick to judge what people look like outwardly. Although this is unlikely to happen until human nature is fixed. I would say letting children come in contact with disabled people early is a great idea. It can be annoying but I can understand why people think that way and try to be forgiving.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

IAG: Ohh tough question, but I'm not a wishing person, I know after some bad things in this world there will be a better world for sure.

  • BB: Your artwork is brilliant. Do you ever wonder what you could have done if you'd been working in oils or watercolours rather than digitally? Your art gives a lot to everyone who sees it – in its own right and not because it's done by someone who is disabled. What does it give to you?

IAG: First of all thanks so much for saying my artwork is brilliant!

I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to work in the traditional styles and I would love to do it. Who knows someday I might have a chance to experience it. I don't get too hooked up on it because digital art is just as challenging and fun as traditional media it's a new media to add to the string of media out there. The traditional art establishment kind of look down on it as a toy or gimmick or are put off by the fact that it cannot be touched, even though its perfect for making prints and can be applied anywhere. I suppose photography had this problem too in the late 19th century, because you cannot touch the subject matter, you view them with your eyes. It gives me tremendous joy to see a piece finished off even though it's hard work producing each piece which take roughly about 20 to over 100 hours to complete. It's freedom in a way to express myself and I like the fact people don't know I'm disabled by the finished result, it breaks down social barriers.

  • BB: What's next for Ian Griffiths?

IAG: Bigger and brighter things, I'm hoping to convert my book into an Epub format and really want to focus in on my artwork and keep commissions coming in. Also there's far higher things coming for me God willing but I'll leave that as a mystery for you :-).

  • BB: Do let us know when the book's out as an E book, Ian and thanks for the interview.

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