Back in 1988, when I first began writing, I was a messed-up youth. Not lawlessly so, just emotionally and socially. Writing for me, back in 1988 and the first few years I wrote, was a great escape—even better than watching my favorite TV shows or reading were.
I found then, and still do find, a great deal of pleasure in relying on my own imagination for my entertainment. The older I get, the more I rely upon it. It’s still very much a great escape for me, and has only grown more so as I’ve grown in my writing skills.
I first branched away from my attempts at fanfic sometime after high school. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been fiddling with original fiction a bit before then, pretty much since I started writing, but most of what I wrote was based in some way on science fiction or fantasy I’d immersed myself in previously. So there was a lot of Star Trek themed stuff, and most of my fantasy worlds were ripoffs of the Forgotten Realms books I’d discovered a love for reading.
After a while, I couldn’t quite keep my worlds precisely like those I read widely in. My Star Trek fanfictions segued into original science fiction based on my own imaginings as I discovered characteristics of my original characters which didn’t seem to work well in the ST universe. My first attempt at a completely original (non-ripoff) fantasy included a Mary Sue character who was a descendant of every fairy race I created for the world I built for her, a powerful mage, and a skilled fighter, all by the age of ten—and I still have that manuscript; I can’t make it past the second page when I try reading it. LOL
No, I wasn’t ten. I just wanted to feel as accomplished as she was at that age, and writing her happened to assuage a great many doubts I had in myself at the time.
That’s what I mean about writing being a great escape. Even more than investing myself into all the characters I read about and watched on TV, often quite avidly in both pursuits, writing about characters I made up on my own enabled me to find confidence in myself.
Granted, I probably immersed myself a little unhealthily when I was younger. Writing was, however, the only true relief I had from my own real life. I needed the escape it provided. Sometimes, anticipation of writing was all that got me through the day. There has been more than one period of time when writing helped keep me from giving up completly, whether or not it was a particularly “healthy” pursuit at the time. I think, when I was in my early twenties, if I hadn’t had writing, I would have succeeded in suicide. I would have become far more antisocial—in a more unhealthy and possibly violent way—than I actually was during that time. I wouldn’t have had any hope at all. Writing was, when I was younger, quite literally all I lived for at times. Without my writing, without the escape it provided from my real life, I would have been a lot more disturbed and, as I said, probably violently so.
One thing I can appreciate now, is what writing did for me back then. It enabled me to face each day with courage and hope, but it did more than that. It also kept me from breaking the law. It gave me a pastime which kept me from getting into trouble. And, most importantly, having to view the situations I made up for my characters from sometimes several different points of view taught me how to be compassionate and open-minded. That, I think, is the most important lesson. I learned, subconsciously, through writing, how to connect my own thoughts and feelings to the results I saw in my own life, so when I had difficulties or bad things happened to me, I could somewhat predict what attitudes would best serve my goals. Because not only had I seen characters I read about going through the worst of the effects of hatred and holding onto pain, but I’d written characters who didn’t end well because of the unhappy emotions they’d clung to.
So, more than an escape, writing has also been a way for me to teach myself how to see the world. It still is a great escape for me. But I also appreciate the outlook it has given me. It’s enabled me to heal from a great deal of emotional trauma. Writing is one of the most positive influences I’ve had in my life, and the times I’ve not been able to write due to circumstance have been some of the hardest and most emotionally stressful for me to endure. Writing gives me more than an escape now. It gives me a method for understanding the world as I see it.
I’m very glad now I’ve so clung to writing, that I make it a part of my life as much as my mind’s vagarities permit. I think I’d be an unhappier person if not for my writing. And I’m afraid that if I hadn’t turned to writing back in 1998 to ease my loneliness, I would have turned out a much worse person than I care to imagine having possibly been.