NORWELL — Hanson resident Brett Miller and Walpole resident Mark Resnick have a lot more in common than graduating Norwell High School.
Their journey since high school has resulted in each writing a book during the pandemic lockdown, which brought them back — to the Norwell Public Library, just off the long, winding driveway to their old school — to talk about their muse and the writing process.
“Personally, I’ve loved writing my whole life,” said Resnick, a Walpole resident, who has been an entrepreneur, boys’ hockey coach as well as an author. “I knew I would write a book, I just had no idea when.”
“I always wanted to write a book,” Miller said. “I wanted to write a good book, and this is one of the silver linings of COVID[-19] for me — I work a lot … but when COVID happened, we were shut down for four months.”
He said he had the book written in his head, but had never put it on paper.
Whether they initially set out to do so or not, both are now published authors, whose memoirs touch on their journey toward working with — and/or writing about — people with neurological disabilities, finding the opportunity and inspiration of the isolation imposed by the COVID -19 pandemic to finally sit down and write.
As an essential worker in his other job as a physical therapist, Miller worked one-on-one with clients during the mornings and write at in the afternoon and evenings. It took him about two and a half months to write his first draft.
A former Army combat medic and a licensed physical therapist, Miller is the owner of 110 Fitness in Rockland —the largest wellness center in the world for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. He is also an ambassador for both the Michael J. Fox and Davis Phinney foundations, and has worked in the fitness industry for 28 years.
Miller had definitely known since a young age that saving lives was his calling. While he always thought he might write that book, it took the lockdown of the gym for four months in 2020, for him to take that time.
The result, “It’s a Beautiful Day to Save Lives: A Medic’s Journey to His Destiny.”
Foe Resnick, writing “Ten Days with Dad: Finding Purpose, Passion and Peace During the Darkest Days of Alzheimer’s and COVID,” helped him cope with his father’s battle with the disease.
Diagnosed in 2014, Resnick’s father was no longer able to drive, cook or take his medications within four years and could also no longer stay in his home.
Before moving into a long-term care facility, Barry D. Resnick stayed with his son’s family for “10 unforgettable days” during COVID.
The two joked about their school days, as they knew each other since middle school. The evening’s moderator Lisa Ruddwas only a few years behind them.
“We were getting together, and I said, ‘I’m getting ready to write a book and she said, ‘Brett Miller wrote a book!’” Resnick said. “She was so enthusiastic about Brett’s book and I’m like, ‘she’s got to be enthusiastic about my book, she’s the perfect person to be our moderator.”
Rudd said it was a rare privilege to read both their books, having grown up with both men.
“To get to see the way you know yourselves and the overlap of different things … you both have definitely put yourselves out there.”
They took differing approaches to their writing, but agreed that writing the book is the best part of writing a book, as Miller put it. Getting published is another matter.
Miller talked about the email stream he had with four different editors for the year and a half it took before his book was produced by self-publishing company AuthorHouse.
Resnick, who also self-published his book, which he highly recommends, noting the self-publishing world is much different than it was even 10 or 15 years ago when it was dismissed as “vanity press.”
He prints on-demand copies through Amazon, as a good many self-published authors now do.
Resnick has always been a journaler, while Miller composes his chapters in his mind, dictating or writing them on his phone.
“I started journaling about my dad’s diagnosis and the effect it had on me,” Resnick said. “I turned to my journal to make me feel good … and it just turned into something a little bit bigger day by day.”
He said self-editing was the hardest part of the writing process.
“My first draft was absolute garbage,” Resnick said, and took eight and a half months to write.
They also discussed the divergent neurological conditions with which they have experience.
“He was living his book,” Miller said of Resnick’s care for his father as his book process was beginning.
Resnick said his father was not aware of the book project.
Miller described writing as a valuable therapy process.
“[You go] though all these sensations and emotions — revisiting those situations, over and over again every time you went to rewrite,” he said. “I recommend writing a book.”
Both said they were unaware the other was going through the emotional circumstances which they wrote about.
Resnick spoke about the heartbreak of his father’s disconnect because of Alzheimer’s.
“It’s developing in our brains 20 to 30 years ahead of time [for people who are ultimately diagnosed with the disease],” he said. “You can’t really obsess over that … like a lot of life, it’s too late.”
Resnick said his father’s mental decline seemed to worsen during the isolation of COVID. Miller underscore that, saying that his boxing program lost four Parkinson’s fighters during COVID, but not because of COVID.
“Because of COVID there are some new objective measurements that we’re able use to measure loneliness and isolation,” he said. “I truly believe that when COVID struck for a lot of people who didn’t have a place to be accountable to or some responsibility or purpose — especially some of our older people in the population — they died of isolation and loneliness for sure.”
While they were able to explore information about the respective diseases of which they wrote, both men also found some therapeutic value in the writing process for themselves.
“The whole vulnerability thing is something I’ve learned with age,” Miller said. “I’m a very private person to this day, but I also find value in personal growth and I find value in being vulnerable, even it’s a little risky about what the circumstances could be,”
The leap of faith “comes back to you ten-fold,” Miller also said.
The PTSD and emotional strain he experienced after leaving the Army has made him more purposeful and creative, Miller said.
“I keep reading my book,” he said. “It’s very emotional for me. … I keep reading it because it’s getting easier for me to read.”
Resnick compared writing to exercising a muscle, eventually I became a better writer.
The men were asked what takeaway readers should get from reading their work.
“If you are unsure of where you belong in this journey — help somebody,” Miller said. “Through service to others, you will figure out your focus and … what your greatness is. But it is your responsibility that, when you figure out what your greatness is, that you act upon it.”
“A comeback is always better than a setback,” Resnick said. “It’s a satisfying feeling to help somebody. … And ask for help if you need it, and it’s never too late to change.”
Both books are available at Amazon.com.