“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
– Sylvia Plath
TW: mentions of trauma (no details), self-harm, alcohol, and psychiatric medication
Writing is how I heal. It always has been.
The truth is I don’t remember the point that I started making up stories in my head. I am sure it was before I knew how to write them down. It was before they taught me how to survive.
Without going into too much detail (I’m not ready to do that here, I don’t entirely know I ever will be) I experienced quite a lot of trauma quite early on in life. And at some point in the middle of it all, I realised that writing it all down helped me to survive.
I journalled obsessively from the ages of 12 to 17. Pages and pages, night after night, juvenile rambling that I am quite sure would make me cringe now. The pages soaked up my pain. The more hurt and angry I felt, the faster my pen flew across the paper. Sometimes a tear would smudge the ink, other times I’d get cramp in my hand from gripping the pen so tightly.
Some time around fourteen, I realised I was going to be a writer. I started writing things and sending them off to publishers and entering them in competitions. I never got anywhere, of course. My creations weren’t ready to for the wider world, and it would be a long time before they were. I wrote a novel, then another.
The summer that I was fifteen, I got it into my head to write a bastardised mash-up of autobiography and fiction in an attempt to make some sort of sense of what I was going through. 150,000 words poured from my fingertips in three weeks. I couldn’t escape the near-daily hell I was living in because, y’know, I was fifteen. Since I couldn’t run, I wrote my way out instead.
I did a degree in Creative Writing. And then another one. I got better, but I still didn’t get published. I wrote a blog, built up a decent following, then shut it down because it was full of stuff about my abuser.
For some reason, I decided I wanted to write about sex. I started this blog. I was twenty six the first time I got paid for words I had written. But long before this blog or any of my writing was a source of income, it was a source of survival. A place of safety. The one way I could make sense of this fucked up world.
And even now, on the days when I am drowning in self-doubt and fear for my future, I know that writing is the one thing I will always have. The one thing I know I am good at. When I want to scream and rage about the fucking ugliness and unfairness of the world right now, I can type and type and type until I feel calm again. On the days when my depression feels so bleak I feel like I will never get off the sofa again, finding the right combination of words still brings me a glimmer of joy and hope.
Sometimes, I feel like my trauma is a slow-acting poison that will destroy me from the inside out if I don’t occasionally exorcise some of it from my bloodstream. Writing is that exorcism, that bloodletting, that antidote sucking the venom out of me. It has saved me so, so many times.
Long before I started reaching for alcohol or razor blades or psychoactive medication to help me survive, I reached for words.
So when people ask me why I write, I tell them I couldn’t not write. That it is my oxygen. That I couldn’t live without it.
(By the way, if you don’t know where the title of this post comes from, go and educate yourself immediately.)
This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!