from Dani Shapiro's Still Writing:
Had I not, as a young woman, discovered that I was a writer, had I not met some extraordinarily generous role models and teachers and mentors who helped me along the way, had I not begun to forge a path out of my own personal wilderness with words, I might not be here to tell this story. I was spinning, whirling, without any sense of who I was, or what I was made of. I was slowly, quietly killing myself. But after writing saved my life, the practice of it also became my teacher. It is impossible to spend your days writing and not begin to know your own mind. (3-4, emphasis mine)
My job has been trying to kill me for years. Had I not been writing, had I not given myself to writing, I might not be here at all. I wonder, is it melodramatic to think of writing saving my life? Is it melodrama to even imagine I would have given myself over to suicide, lost myself in sickness, or betrayed my life in some way had I not been writing? If that is melodramatic (and I think it is) take comfort in knowing that writing saved us from the melodrama of those sad stories.
I don't remember any one time when I thought, Ah, writing! You have saved me! but I recall many times when depression swallowed most of me and I stopped writing thinking I couldn't make meaning in such darkness. I also remember how when I returned to writing — when I gave myself permission and command to write things that were lousy, awful, imperfect, ordinary, and generally yucky — the darkness began to subside. Writing cures depression? Sounds like more melodrama, but I can live with that because I came out of depressions in large part because writing felt like living.
As I write this I am in the middle of some darkness. My job is so bad my therapist called it "soul sucking" and explained that she was not reverting to cliché but felt that I was actually losing my soul to the job. My car is in hospice care and we have to come up with money to buy another. My wife's job is difficult. Our friends' house burned down. These are tough times and just getting tougher.
However, today I have written three morning pages which led to pieces that feel like parts of a short book. I created two essays for my blog. I've read a few pages of Dani Shapiro. I've made notes about other things I want to write. And now I've set this to type. All of this while feeling sick to my stomach and almost disabled by the job.
It's like Springsteen says:
The times are tough now, just getting tougher
This whole world is rough, it's just getting rougher
Cover me, come on baby, cover me
Well I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me
I love writing. It covers me.