The Writing Palliative
Writing calms me down and relieves my pain.
I’ve been writing on a daily basis now for about 11 years. I made it a habit because I wanted to make a living as a writer. Well, if you count the correspondence I write at work as customer service, then that counts as writing for money.
Since March, I’ve been dealing with a persistent cough most likely due to silent heartburn, or GERD. The cough keeps me up at night and so to avoid rousing other people from their sleep, I’m here, writing.
From time to time, I experience recurrent corneal epithelial erosion, a very painful and temporary eye condition for which there is no known cure, that happens only once in a while and when it does, I can hardly keep my eyes open in bright sunlight due to pain. Sleep is a bit of a bear, too, but sleep actually helps here, if I can get it.
I may also find myself smarting from a power struggle with my wife, or my elder child. (Happily, I never have any power struggles at work.) I may have trouble finding sleep as I toss and turn with an obsession over how I should have handled it, what I did wrong, what I will do next, and those virtual conversations that never go anywhere.
Right there above, are three good examples of personal pain that I must endure, and for which I have found no other relief than writing. Writing diverts my focus from what I’m thinking about, which is the past, to the future, what I’m creating and am about to create. To me, this is the most attractive part of writing: I never know what will come out until I start writing and go hip-deep in the words.
Even on days when I think I no good ideas to write about, I find that if I just start writing, even haltingly, eventually the words go from a trickle to the Mississippi in flood. And when I’m in that state of mind, it’s like my brain is delivering undiluted opium to any part of my consciousness where there is pain. For where there is pain, there is distraction, and I can’t have that while writing, so my brain is only too happy to oblige.
I’ve seen the pain of epithelial erosion disappear within 15 minutes of writing. I’ve seen my persistent cough calm down completely when I’m writing. I’ve seen my obsessions, my little pet rocks that require constant feeding, love, and attention, pushed aside in favor of writing.
I’ve also noticed that writing is winning the battle with TV. I’m developing FOMO with writing. I don’t want to miss out on the fun of writing, for writing is far more entertaining than TV. I never miss a word when I’m writing. Everything I write is “captioned”, so my poor ear, my one good ear, gets a rest. I hear my own voice in my own head with perfect clarity and understanding. And my inner critic? He’s at my side with crayons and a coloring book, oblivious to my writing.
I have found writing to be, for me anyway, the best pain reliever money can buy. I paid for the computer long ago. I pay every month for the internet access that I use to write this article in the Medium editor. And I pay for the glasses, the time, and the loss of sleep, with each article I write.
I have somewhat severe anxiety that if I go back to sleep without writing an article, that I won’t have enough time to write it before I start my day job. Or before the kids wake up to find me. I’d rather write than sleep, watch TV or read a book if I’m in pain. I know, this looks bad.
But there is another reason I write. Most of the stuff I want to talk about, well, that’s boring for my family. They’re just not that into the stuff I’m into. This is the best place for me to talk about the things I really want to talk about.
And when I’m done writing in the morning, I can rest assured that I won’t have to manipulate a conversation to the topic of the latest gamma-ray burst, the latest advances in batteries or the latest observation I’ve made about humanity, into a conversation with an unsuspecting family member. My mind will be clear because I’ve already said what I wanted to say, and I will be available to listen to anyone else who catches my wayward ear.
I write for the pain relief that no other medicine can provide. To me, writing is a palliative. Writing may not address the root cause of my pain, but it provides nearly immediate relief for any pain that I might be experiencing. Writing as a palliative, has no side effects, no long term downsides, and as a bonus, it helps me to know myself. Writing helps me to be true to myself.