WRITING AS EXORCISM AND CATHARSIS

Writing

Why do writers write? That question comes up once in a while on the Twitter #WritingCommunity, and as you may imagine the answers are as varied as the folks answering. Some write for that elusive fame and glory, some to illuminate a particular passion, some because it feeds the creativity monster that lives inside them. For me, the answer is pretty simple. Writing makes me happy. I’ve been doing it since roughly junior high, and I still get a happy little rush from crafting a pretty sentence. And on rare occasions, when my brain is bubbling with ideas and words are sparking out of my fingertips at a feverish pace, that happiness approaches something very much like joy. I can reach that same joy by drawing but it’s trickier, because there are more tools involved, more variables between my brain and the final result.

There’s another reason people, including me, write, and that’s because they have to. Because the act of writing keeps the darkness at bay, because it expels inner demons, because it brings relief and release. They use writing to work through issues, and maybe so that they don’t surrender to those issues. They write because it’s better than screaming into the void.

Looking back at my own work, I can recognize the moments when I wasn’t writing for fun, but was instead writing to alleviate…something. It might be an entire story, or a poem, or just a fragment or even a single line. To the reader it may not be readily apparent that I wrote those words as a way to exorcise some beast clawing at me from within, to justify or maybe apologize for an experience that haunts me. I can see it, though. I remember.

I’m not, as a rule, particularly tortured. I have led, and continue to lead, a relatively happy and fulfilling life, with a loving family and good friends. That doesn’t mean the hopelessness never comes to call. I’m lucky in that, when it does, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a way to battle back. I don’t think I’m at my best in those cases, when I’m tearing the words out of my soul one barbed letter at a time. To me, my best writing happens when the creative flow is wide open and I’m just going along for the ride. But I cherish each and every one of those painful sentences.

It’s comforting to know that the next time the darkness descends, words are waiting to shield me.

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