by Camela Thompson
It wasn't until this last week that I understood writers who say they have to write. It never occurred to me that I had to write. On the surface, it was just something I did. Things clicked after a hellish week at work. Projects went sideways, priorities got shuffled, and I scrambled to keep up. People were more argumentative than usual. Stressful things happened with family. The week was just weird. By the time Friday rolled around, I wanted to lock myself in my house and spend the weekend writing. When things are happy, I make myself write. This was different. I had to write.
As I acknowledged that I need to write, I thought about when I started writing. Of course I wrote stories as a child, but those impulses were weakened by the need to fit in, get good grades, and find a career. I no longer wrote. My perfectionist nature drowned out those old impulses and created destructive behaviors. Setting unrealistic goals creates insurmountable amounts of stress. How can you possibly succeed when the bar is set out of reach? The inevitable failures lead to more stress. I can handle large amount of stress mentally, but my body broke down.
Systemic lupus made it necessary to slow down. Waaayyyy down. After years of running full speed, my body forced me to take breaks, find hobbies, and create some distance from my job. This was a good thing, but it was also really scary. I didn't slow down without a fight, and it's something I still struggle with. Realizing how little control I had over my life shattered me, creating fractures that threatened the person I had become. Admitting that I couldn't fix myself with a strict diet or by altering superficial behavior was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
My first novel was written while I was very sick. A scary medical condition had me stuck at home, wondering what was going to happen next. My doctors were developing a treatment strategy, and while I knew I was in good hands, I was terrified. Over the years, I have taken solace in good writing, disappearing into alternate worlds. That particular week, reading wasn't enough. I didn't want to trust another writer to take me where I needed to go. Instead, I sat down and wrote the story I wanted to read. I made a world that conformed to my rules.
While the real world spun out of control, I created a universe that would behave exactly how I envisioned it. I could write about what terrified me in a safe place, where nothing could happen that wasn't by my design.
I joke that writing is therapy, but there is truth in those words. Writing allows me to safely relive my past, weaving it into a story that makes sense to me. It's a way for me to take something that scared the hell out of me and turn it into something that empowers me. The end result doesn't resemble reality enough for people to pick out the similarities, but it's enough for me.
Do you have a creative outlet? Do you find that you turn to it during trying times?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.