In Which I Tell You How Writing Saved My Life

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. What began as ten page picture books I’d create on printer paper and staple together soon became an obsession. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was writing twenty page short stories that made my teacher wonder if I even had a life.

And the truth was, I didn’t. I didn’t have a terrible home life – my parents never divorced and I was not poor. There was always food on our table and I always had clothes on my back. But there are a lot of people who equate this with happiness – you have everything you need, what could possibly be so bad about your life?

I won’t go into the details, but behind the picture of a normal suburban family we were quite dysfunctional. My sibling had a lot of issues that he still contends with to this day, and he required a lot more attention than my parents really had to give. So I tried to be the normal child that didn’t require it. I didn’t want to create issues – my brother had nightmares that kept him up all night. I didn’t want to cause more problems, didn’t want to sap more of their energy than was already being taken.

Photo by Joe Thorn

I never told anyone that I had nightmares too. I would lie awake at night, reading and writing until 4 in the morning and when it started to get light out, I’d sleep for those few hours before my alarm went off and it was time to go to school. My parents thought I was an avid reader because I was book smart – really, it was the only thing keeping the dreams away.

Writing was my only other escape. My characters had bigger problems that I had to help them solve – writing made it possible for me to escape from my own life, even just for a bit. Even if I wasn’t writing in my notebook, I was thinking about my stories. I didn’t have to think about what was going on in my life or in my family’s lives – I had my characters and their stories to keep me busy. My stories were my safe haven. Even if I was in the middle of the battlefield at home, my sanctuary was waiting just inside my mind.

To this day, writing keeps me going. It is what I turn to when things are rough and even when they aren’t. I write when I’m sad and when I’m at my happiest. It’s ingrained in everything that I am.

How has writing saved you, or even just become  part of your daily life? How has it changed you?

4 Responses to “In Which I Tell You How Writing Saved My Life”
  1. Maggie says:

    Like you, I would always write when I was having a hard time. It’s amazing how powerful writing is.

  2. mesummer says:

    Fantastic post. I, too, escape into my stories when life is hard.

    I’ve actually been thinking a lot lately about how I can teach my young daughter this coping technique, as I can’t imagine how my life would have gone without it. I want her to have a similar outlet, an escape hatch for when classes are too boring for words, or when bosses have no people skills, or when sleep just won’t come. And especially for any time she feels abandoned and alone and at sea with the world.

    Anyway, thanks for the great reminder of the power of story and imagination. Even as I struggle with the business end of writing, it’s so important for me to remember why I write in the first place. 🙂

    • I think teaching your daughter about writing is a wonderful idea and really just shows your understanding of what childhood can be like sometimes. If kids don’t have an outlet of some kind they often turn to other (sometimes not so great) ways of expressing themselves. I was lucky that I discovered writing and storytelling all on my own, and grew up to be semi-normal because of it (at least in my opinion).

      I think you’re right about remembering why you do it – it’s so very important to think about!

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