Monday, July 23, 2012

Write to Remedy

Last time I mentioned in passing that a few chaotic days descended on me, leaving me with an intense need to garden.  Today’s post I thought could actually explain the chaos that happened and how writing helped me recover.

I’m sure you all know that writing is not a reliable remedy for all crises.  The creative personality is too tied up with emotions and imagination to weather every storm undaunted, still churning out a solid 1000 words a day (not that I do that at the best of times - I subscribe to this theory, instead).  If your only desire is to curl up in a corner and cry, while your mind plays over and over the same depressing/traumatic/embarrassing/all-of-the-above event, then the chances are high that writing will not progress. 

This is about how I felt after the theft!
However, in some cases, with smaller problems, it is the perfect escape, distraction and relaxation.  We write partly for the enjoyment of it, after all, just as painters paint because it is enjoyable, or sculptors sculpt, or any other artist…arts?  I think we can all agree that enjoyable activities definitely have a therapeutic effect.

This fact was reinforced for me last Thursday. 

The preceding day, my bike was stolen.  Nothing has ever been stolen from me before, so when I came out of the library and it was nowhere to be found, I went through an absolute flood of emotions.  Shock, dismay, terror, horror, anger, embarrassment, shame, regret, humiliation, some more anger, some more shock, some more humiliation—I felt all of the above.  (The shame and regret were due to the fact that I didn’t lock up my bike, so it was sort of my fault…but then again, who in their right mind steals a 12 year old bike?  It boggles the mind!)

Well, the result of a dozen different emotions warring within me for a couple of hours was that I ended up feeling utterly exhausted.  Plus my chief sensation, which lingered for several days, was one of violation.  When your world is invaded and some small part – even so insignificant as an old bike – is taken away by force, you suddenly feel small and helpless, at the mercy of events beyond your control.  This new and lasting experience certainly did not help my energy levels return to normal. 

At the same time, though, I knew that my life wasn’t particularly upset.  It was my carelessness which led to the event; I had the money to buy another bike; I hadn’t lost my biking accoutrements; the police were reasonably sympathetic.  Really, my situation was fine.  I was just tired and dispirited by it all.

So what did I turn to as a way to cheer myself up?  Writing, of course!

I felt much better after writing!
Last Thursday I woke up and schlepped around the house in a vague, sad manner, wondering what I should do (I never said I wasn’t inclined to melodrama!).  Finally it became clear to me that my best option was to work on the next chapter of my current novel.  I had only three chapters left before the end.  It was a reasonable thing  to attempt to knock out at least one of them.  I lacked confidence that I would meet with any success, since I felt so blue – but hey, every little bit of writing counts, right? 

Two or three hours later, I set my computer off my lap and realized I’d written my entire chapter.  It had so completely absorbed me that I forgot my woes and only concentrated on the final confrontation between two of my characters.  As I realized this, suddenly a bit of brightness returned to my outlook.  I was not totally subject to random events with little apparent meaning (e.g.: the theft of my bike).  I am an author, and as such I can claim a certain refreshing and impervious autonomy. 

As I said, I make no promises that writing or any other indulgence in art can bring us relief in every crisis that comes our way.  My own experience tells me that’s not true at all, since during the more extreme difficulties in my life, I’ve been reduced to practical inarticulacy beyond the occasional haiku. 

However, when something bad does happen, which is neither so awful as to be crushing, nor so trivial as to be forgettable, then writing can really help.  It restores perspective, reminding us that other elements in our life still remain unaffected and positive.  It distracts us from thinking too much about our trouble, which is often just what we need to recover from it.  It creates something new which we can
New bike detail, yay!
take delight in, instead of worrying over the old problem.  In short, if circumstances are right, it’s the perfect solution to medium-sized woes.

That’s why when I feel rather dull, or a bit down, or needlessly burdened, I often take refuge in writing.  Not only does it improve my mood and advance my work, it also saves me from inflicting my blues on other people.  It is my great equalizer.  I highly recommend it.

Of course, the other thing that helped restore my mood was buying a new bike on Friday.  I’ve already tested it out, and I can assure you it is quite perfect for me.  Also, I bought a lock to use at the library.  Now I can face down all bike thieves with impunity!


  1. Writing as therapy? I'll have to remember that one next time I'm feeling down. Thanks for this: a timely reminder that there are, in the final analysis, more important things than writing. Glad you got the new bike too! :-)

    1. Thank you for the comment! I hope you find writing as therapeutic as I do, if you try out my method :-)