March 10th, 2021
At the end of last year, my dad had a cancer recurrence. My head was swirling with thoughts. It was so difficult to cope with it all that my initial cure was simply to sleep through it—14 hours a day if needed. After a rough week or so, I began to accept reality as it was. I was as ready as I would ever be to continue with my life.
Still, the event shook me so profoundly I had to find ways to evacuate the stress and keep my thoughts clear. One way was meditating, the other was writing; it’s the latter I want to talk about. Although I come from a fairly technical education, I always considered myself somewhat of a words person. As far as I remember, I always was writing stories.
I woke up in the following days with the willingness to write one again. I actually don’t know what brought me to pick up a pen. So I started writing about two people living on a tropical island. While the inspiration was obvious—I was at my parents’ house in Réunion Island at the time—the urge to write I felt was not. Still, it was calming.
Imagining a world on the fly as the ideas flowed was soothing. I felt like my mind was getting lighter as the words wrote on the page. I was not writing about the events that were happening to me. Maybe I was half-consciously incorporating bits of my experience into the characters and plots I was creating. To be honest, I don’t know why it felt that good; but it did.
I hadn’t been writing for leisure for years. Even less literally picking up a pen and writing on a notebook. But for a few consecutives days, I found myself writing about all sorts of stuff. It was so fulfilling that it sparked the willingness to start writing regularly again. Back home after a hard, but needed, time with my family, I decided to try and stick with this habit of writing.
I started to document myself about the benefits of writing and how to create a writing habit. While browsing Julian Shapiro’s website, I came across a quote that resonated strongly with me: “Writing is a laxative for the mind. Great ideas emerge while writing—not before. After writing ideas down, your brain is compelled to draw connections between them.”
Stated like this, it sounded obvious. But I really felt what he was saying. I often found that after writing an idea down and freeing my mind from it, it was easier to reason about. Because writing forced me to think about counterpoints and gray areas, it enabled me to refine my ideas until I was satisfied with the way I stated them.
Like Boileau was saying in The Art of Poetry, “Whatever is well conceived is clearly said, and the words to say it flow with ease.” To put it bluntly: writing is thinking clearly. And who wouldn’t want to think clearly? Well, I know I wanted to.
I guess the documenting started as a way of reassuring me that writing was a hobby worthy of my time. Soon after, it just became the usual way of procrastinating in the sake of preparation. A dozen articles, newsletters and writing tips later, I was no closer to publishing. Today, I am ending this. I want to build a habit of writing daily. Here’s a first blog post as a commitment to that.
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