A writer not writing is practically a maniac within himself.F. Scott Fitzgerald
The last year has been the worst year of my life, and little of it had to do with Covid. Last fall I lost over 20 pounds (after being underweight to start with), stopped being able to work, stop being able to go to the bathroom without taking something for months at a time. I ended up in the ER at 3 AM because I was worried my stomach might explode from the pain. My muscles atrophied, felt like bricks. I stopped being able to eat solid foods, barely got out of bed, could barely do any normal activities. My acid reflex got so bad I haven’t been able to sleep laying down for months, and when I have slept it’s been for 4 or 5 hours tops.
And now, almost a year later, after going through an endoscopy and colonoscopy that essentially found nothing, doing endless tests, seeing various doctors (one of whom looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re a pain in the ass” – what a healer. Naturally, after that interaction, every single one of my issues got worse tenfold), doing yoga, meditation, eating the healthiest diet at the right times and in the right amounts, and doing everything else that I could find recommended and essentially getting little relief, it’s clear that what my body needed, what my brain needed, was writing. As it has been all my life, writing is my savior.
Since I was little I was obsessed with stories. Unlike most aspiring writers, I was not a big reader, nor barely a reader at all. I had no attention span whatsoever to sit still, hold a book, become absorbed in the story. But I would write my own. Falling asleep every night I would construct stories and get lost in them until falling asleep. Writing became my one and only coping mechanism. (Later on I found other coping mechanisms, such as alcohol, but writing remained about the only positive one.)
During high school I wrote thousands of pages, using up pen after pen, and searching the house for more paper to use, including stealing it from both my sister’s desks when they weren’t home. None of these stories were good, they were wish fulfillment, meeting a need that I felt for human connection, connection that I was terrified to actually engage in in real life. During my sophomore year my English teacher, Mrs. Smith, assigned us The Great Gatsby. It’s the first book I remember being able to focus on from beginning to end, and it showed me that writing could be more than wish fulfillment, that it could be beautiful, heartbreaking, the highest form of human expression. It was at that intersection that I began to actually pay attention to the words I was using to tell the stories I was writing. I began to think about plot rather than just spewing words forth onto a page, and it was life-changing.
Flash forward 20 some years – I’ve had 20 some pieces printed (all in small time literary magazines), written two unpublished novels and an unpublished novella, but they’re all sitting there, stagnant, on a shelf, feeling no more part of me than the image of myself at five years old – something I recognize, but can no longer feel. The reasons I stopped being able to write were many, most likely more than even I realize at this point. And that might be another post down the line, but opening up that box now seems beyond overwhelming. The point I want to make is that after trying literally everything else that I could think of, I hit rock bottom a couple days ago. After laying face down on the floor for some time, I picked up an old journal and began to read. And then I pulled out the first novel I wrote and began to read. Then I pulled out the second novel I wrote and began to look at where I could begin to rework it.
And magic happened. I did minor edits and read through my own words that I didn’t recognize having written, and I felt something I haven’t felt over this last year – the joy of creation, of pure mental stimulation, of focus and flow states. It was amazing. What was more amazing is that, at least so far, numerous parts of my body returned to a normal state. I’ve slept several decent nights now, my digestion has been on point even though I ate a number of things that have caused severe issues in very recent days, my anxiety fell dramatically. And that wasn’t even from writing itself, but just editing, reading my own work, getting everything in order to start writing. My physical issues are still quite severe and are clearly going to take some time to fully heal, but for the first time it seems like it’s possible, and it’s all because of writing.
My point is this – if you have a passion, especially if you have had it since childhood, find a way to do it, even if no one thinks you’re any good at it, find a way to do it for yourself. If people interfere with that, change your relationship to them to whatever form it needs to take so that you can do what you need to do. Not being able to engage in my passion of writing nearly killed me. This is not hyperbole. There are many days that I laid in bed wondering how long I had to go. Our minds, how we look at things, what we choose to surround ourselves with, who we choose to surround ourselves with, these are what determines everything in our life. They determine if we thrive or simply survive; they determine if we live or die.