I've been somewhat retrospective (introspective?) lately; wondering what happened to old friends, reviewing old writing, laughing at my experimental “artistic drawing” period, flipping through photos that don't tell the whole story yet remind me anyway, etc. It's usually a bad idea to flip through an old high school yearbook, by the way. Really, Dude! What were you thinking?
Maybe it has something to do with Spring, kayak season coming, two weddings to attend this year and and the throaty guitar of Led Zeppelin bouncing around my otherwise vacant cerebral mass.
Maybe it is simply a case of the “what ifs” - which in my experience seldom helps with anything current. It does help with creative fiction though.
I wrote a children's story whilst in my twenties. Sparky Squirrel and the Beaverton Gang. (I kid you not... pun intended.) How I managed to leverage a children's story out of my angry young self while at the same time writing a violent, post-apocalyptic saga about human stupidity (Oasis), I'll never know. Thankfully, my temperament has eased somewhat over the years.
I have a journal. More correctly, a series of journals with over fifteen hundred pages of blithering, blathering, whining, laughing, recording events and self examination. I learned early on in order to clear stuff out of my head, I required a venue. Somewhere along the line of teen angst and early adult semi-controlled idiocy, I stumbled upon a blank notebook and a pen. The rest, as they say, is hysterical.
Since that time, I've written many, many short stories, poems, one financial book, the previously mentioned children's book and four novels. The vast majority of those will not see the light of day again until my ashes blow to the wind and someone decides to rifle through my papers for a Last Will and Testament. (It's in one of the psychology books... I think.)
It turns out writing has great value - not just in spreading the word of Ed - but also in creating some pretty healthy side effects.
Aside from the obvious clearing of mind, writing in any form - regardless of quality - has significant physical effects (particularly writing about traumatic events). Writing has now been shown to lower blood pressure, relieve stress, increase the ability to handle stress, reduce anxiety and depression, reduce hospital visits and increase liver, heart and lung function. Sleep comes more easily and is deeper with people who write their issues out.
Writing can be the physical manifestation of offloading or venting.
Oddly enough, writing also helps a person heal more quickly. If you happen to be injured, the chemical cocktail coursing through your veins from stress and worry inhibit the healing process. Your body is working overtime to deal with stress when it wants to be focused on rehabilitation. Even immune functions increase... meaning you're less likely to suffer illness if you write it out.
Over time, I've noticed I tend to write more when I have something to get off my chest. Sometimes a thought just won't let me go, so I write it out. Clearing out the clutter by writing it out helps me cope with day to day functionality. It helps me be a better driver. It helps me pay attention to people. It helps me relate better both by listening and letting others know where I stand.
When I go long periods without writing, I become mentally cluttered, more confused, irritable and less able to relate or function. It affects my physical health as well. As I feel better about myself and relieve worries, I physically feel better and stronger. There is literally less weight to carry.
In the end, writing clears my head of the strains of ordinary life so I can remove the eclipse to see my heart.
Apparently sociologists and scientists agree.