I Write To Give Myself Strength

imagesIt’s no great secret; I’m not particularly good at dealing with stress. But who is? Maybe some people handle it better than others but for me, it’s a weak point that I’m well aware of. That’s why I’ve tailored my life to a point where I can feel both challenged and controlled.

I’m extremely introverted, so pretty much any social situation comes with a degree of challenge. I absolutely love spending time with my friends and family, and I have a pretty active social life which is really important to me. But four hours is pretty much my limit for social interaction. I can certainly stay out longer but once that fourth hour hits my eyes glaze over and I long to be alone.

I do plenty of other things that are outside of my comfort zone and I embrace and enjoy them as a necessary part of my personal development—but that’s a whole other topic.

To keep my stress levels low I like to stick to a good routine. I practice yoga and I meditate, but most importantly—I write. Over the years I’ve wondered why writing helps me so much and while I know it fuels a passion which makes me feel alive, I felt certain there must be more to it and I’ve finally put my finger on it.

Funnily enough it was a yoga teacher who gave me the insight to recognise it.

Quad+Stretch+Yoga+Pose+Vastus+Lateralis+3I generally practice yoga at home but recently I went to a class and found myself subjected to some philosophical wisdom. During the session the teacher guided us into a difficult posture. It was pretty painful and I can’t remember how long we had to hold it but while we were in place the teacher reminded us to think of the posture as a symbol of the challenges we face in life. Often we shy away from the things we find difficult or painful but it’s important we experience them and learnt to deal with them. The posture is uncomfortable and your body is begging for release but you use your breath to acknowledge the difficulty and build confidence that you can progress through it.

downloadDays later I had a particularly tough day at the writing desk. I’d been working really hard to finalise my editing process when I suddenly hit a wall. Nothing seemed to fit and I felt irritable and frustrated. Then the yoga philosophy ran through my head and the two things clicked into place.

While writing a book, there are days when it’s hard and unforgiving, where progress is slow and success seems too far away. There are problems that need to be solved and solutions where you never expect to find them. There are also moments of pure joy and sometimes days of never ending self-doubt. But you keep going, and after days, weeks, months, years … you realise you’re done. Amongst those pages are all your fears, every tough day and all the happiness you experienced in your life as you wrote it.

Writing is a mentor, a place for you to face your demons in a context you can control. It forces you to acknowledge all that you’re afraid of and find a way to live beyond it. Writing is the teacher who works on your own time, harnessing your insecurities until you’re ready to face them. There are times when I’m tense with action or solemn with the despair of my characters but at the end of the day, all of those things have lived inside of me. I can externalise them in my book and look at them objectively. Although it’s taken me a while to understand how this works, my instinct has been right all along. So if you’ve ever thought about writing a book, you should absolutely get started. It will be the most difficult but rewarding thing you can do for yourself and you’ll come out of it a better person.

I’ve said it so many times before, but I’ll say it again—thank god I have this beautiful thing in my life!

Writing Is My Drug …

writing is my drugThis morning I was reading Stephen King’s On writing – A Memoir of the Craft, which is an amazing book I’d love to share more detail on, but that’s another blog entirely. For today I’ll just focus on one aspect. He talks briefly about the idea put forward by many artists that creativity and mind altering substances go hand in hand. Stephen King himself suffered from addiction, first alcohol then drugs. At the time he was afraid that without them he would lose his ability to be creative, even though he started writing long before he started drinking. Once he’d overcome these addictions he realised it was a myth.

It made me think about the idea and how many musicians, writers, painters, etc. claim drugs enhance their creativity but I have to say in my mind it couldn’t be more opposite. I’m not going to get on my high-horse and say these people shouldn’t take drugs, it’s  a personal choice, if that’s what works for them that’s fine but ultimately Stephen King said it right. “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because that’s what alkies are wired up to do.”

I don’t take drugs and I don’t drink but that’s not to say I haven’t in the past. In fact despite my current herbal tea, yoga and meditation ritual I used to be quite a party animal. The truth is: ever since writing became such an active part of my life I no longer feel the need to engage in any of that. I still socialise and go to parties, I dance and laugh—I absolutely know how to have a good time but getting wasted doesn’t tempt me in the slightest.

I certainly have never bordered near the extreme of alcoholic but I won’t lie, it used to be a means of escape. When I was unsure of myself and my mind was constantly racing I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Sometimes when I needed to relax there was nothing quite like a beer at the end of the day.  I guess it also enhanced social situations but in reality I do just fine without it. It’s just that writing has now substituted it completely. I no longer have thousands of thoughts and ideas trapped in my head, they have an outlet and the more creativity there is in my life the more balanced I feel.

The imagination is an amazing place, I don’t think it needs substances to make it richer. If you want to take drugs take drugs but don’t say you have to do it for the sake of your art. If you feel the inclination to be creative chances are it’s because your brain is built that way. Regardless of whether you take drugs or not it’s going to exist. If you’ve taught yourself you can only work when you’re under the influence then that’s probably what will happen. Take all of that away—the creativity still exists you just need to give it a chance to find its own way out.

“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Amen Stephen King.