Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Writing as Refuge

It's odd, but as the writing years go by, I increasingly find that writing is a refuge from much in life.  I don't mean that writing is any easier than it has ever been or that it takes less effort or concentration or anything like that.  But I find myself less and less on board with people who talk about the stress and difficulty of the writing life or how they so often dislike the act of writing which requires such effort and brings, for most, so little reward.

Here's where I am:  I happen to be a house owner, and as anyone who owns a house knows, the main thing that comes with owning a property, aside from whatever comforts and security one may get living in the place you own, is aggravation and the unexpected - something breaking or leaking or wearing away.  Repairs never end.  Frustrations never cease.  Owning a house is a constant reminder of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system (your house) to degenerate into a more disordered state.

This is all magnified when a house you own has tenants.  Now, as it were, there are more chances for things in the house to go wrong.  And a kind of stress develops.  Your cell phone pings, and every time it does, no matter the hour, wherever you are, you think, oh no, it's one of the tenants, something went wrong, something needs to be fixed....again.

Then there's work, of course, the grind of the job, with all its daily attendant annoyances and the general financial worries that come with having one son in college and one about to start a high school that, though great, will cost a hell of a lot.  

Now, clearly, none of what I'm saying here is bad in and of itself.  Owning property, a kid about to enter a topnotch high school -- this is not stuff to complain about.  And there's no blame to ascribe: as far as the younger son goes, it was both my and his mother's choice to put him into the pricey high school.  It's been our choice also to make the property purchases we did.

What is true though is that it's this same stuff -- a couple of houses to keep up, tenants to deal with, school tuitions to budget for -- that creates most of the tension in my life, the anxiety that rises inside me from time to time.  Writing, by contrast, has become the escape.  Writing's the thing to look forward to.  By the time I've dealt with whatever came up that particular day and sit myself down at the laptop in the quiet of my room, I can't wait to get to work and push ahead on the piece or story or novel I'm writing.  Often enough those two or three hours of writing are the most enjoyable thing I do all day.  Those are the hours when one can dream while awake. You can put all the bilge and pressure of the everyday world out of your mind and lose yourself in the world you devise.  Fiddling with sentences isn't fun like, say, going to the beach is fun, but what a pleasure playing with sentences is in comparison to daily pressures and exasperations.

And what about rewards?  The minimal rewards, as people put it, that come with writing.  The response to that is obvious.

The act of writing, making something, experimenting, how this all fully engages your mind as you do it, becomes a reward unto itself.

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