Writing for Stress Relief

I am what used to be called a Type A personality. However the DSM or various manuals would define it now, I am a neurotic, obsessive nut who nevertheless is painfully disorganized and absent-minded.

How do I function without imploding? I make lists in my head. From the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed, I have a list of tasks. And I focus like Rain Man, all day long on going through that list and getting at least most of the things done on it.

How does that work without making me even more insane? I write. At the end of the day, during lunch hour, during breaks, I write another world where the main characters are usually more insane than I am, like watching the Jerry Springer Show to remind oneself that things could certainly be more out of control in one’s own life. No matter what else is happening, I’m not throwing shoes and chairs. But I can write people who are throwing a lot more than that.

My life with a terrific husband and amazing little girl is great. But since I am a socially-handicapped stress monkey, life’s little stressors add up to a lot. And recently, I went through a very discouraging experience with the Denver police, which would have driven me to drink if I liked liquor. So most nights, after my kid, and sometimes my husband went to sleep, the computer came out.

Last year, I contemplated going back to school for my Ph.D in social science. Around the same time, I started writing. And I realized that if I got into the doctoral program, I’d spend most of my time writing essays and research papers. And I was having a blast writing creepy short stories. If one is going to write a good story, research is still necessary, but it doesn’t have the same academic pressure behind it. It’s purely for pleasure and curiosity. I’ve been in social science for over ten years. And I love it, but I’m not interested in conducting studies at this point. I like being out in the world in my job and doing applied science, and I don’t want to give up any more of my time away from my daughter and husband for a research deadline.

I can write when I need to and want to, around both of their lives. And my husband said something to me that I’ll never forget, “I feel like I get to know you better when I read your stuff.” As profoundly disturbing as that might be given that I often write horror, it really drove home the benefit of writing as pure self-expression, in a form available to those of us with difficulty expressing things verbally. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

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