Yes, You Can Write

painFor me writing is like breathing air, just as vital. I started writing stories, poems, connected ideas in my early teens and never stopped.

Also, writing became as easy as breathing air, although I don’t think I took it for granted, because I was always dedicated and practiced writing endlessly. No, I haven’t mastered it, and I still haven’t written a bestseller, but words are laid out easier these days, and ideas come out clearer with less effort. So, if I am asked if I write well, I answer that it’s up to them to decide, but it goes well, and it goes effortless more often than not (I better not jinx myself here).

Having said that now, I must admit I’ve met quite a bit of people who said they cannot write. Cannot write for the life of them. I met the majority of these people in recovery program where I was the counselor and they were the clients, and the conversations were about writing down thoughts, frustrations, resentments, and keeping a diary. I pressed on the importance of letting out the negative, the overbearing and lasting sorrow, as well as desires, ambitions, unrealized plans, and hopes for the future. I suggested to submit all these to paper. I urged my clients to write and keep the positives, to jot down and save the negatives that are good to refer to and compare “then and now” experiences to witness the progress of recovery. I proposed putting down particularly nasty ideas that they’d want to say to others and after all was written down, destroy it so it would be out of mind, out of sight, and out of the room.

And they just wouldn’t do it. They said they would try. They wrote down relapse prevention plans OK, but they wouldn’t write down a diary or destructible material. Because they couldn’t write.

Which struck me as odd. Granted, some people don’t get enough schooling for whatever reason, and then whatever education they did get, they didn’t have a chance to practice it. But people who did get it, they wouldn’t give it a try either.

I carried that in my head for a while, as one of the usual wonders. And I still kept meeting people in recovery, at work or not, that said they couldn’t write like me, although they never read whatever I wrote, because I am really not that famous yet : ) To me, writing is just… what? You take a pen and start jotting stuff down. OK, these days most people type. No problem. You type, adding a word to a word, because you still have to get your resumes and shopping lists done, right? So, you can do that. You come up with an idea, and you just follow up with it, one thought clings to the other, and the tale of whatever you want to discover starts unfolding. It may take you half hour or three days, but something comes out on the paper, or on a digital document from under your fingers and there you go. How hard can that be, I mused, no matter what you write, an essay, a poem, a ten-sentence summary of your life?

And then I had a conversation with a person who had to confirm that all the people I talked to about writing were in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. And she pointed out that people who go through recovery are not there because their life was so great and she reminded me how much does that have to do with childhood and teen trauma. This person said that people who are enslaved by addictive and destructive behavior most likely were talked down to, get bullied, so often in the family when they were young. Statistics prove that. These people were told they (or sometimes they wrongly perceived the message) that they are worthless, dumb, and good for nothing. Many of them would have witnessed terrible and nasty things happened to their family and/or they were taken away from their families. They wouldn’t do good in school, in relationships, at work, etc. How often would they blame themselves to be the reason of what was happening to them? What kind of understanding of self could they get out of that? Whatever skills and talents they may have acquired through the years, they may have given up on them. And if they never were encouraged to seek and develop such skills, they would never come to see themselves as good at anything, including writing down a ten-sentence summary of their life.

I thought about that, how lucky I was to have a better life and being able to put my ideas on something where I can keep them and make sense of my world through doing so. Was I taking things for granted until now?

At least now I think I can understand people a little bit better. And yes, I will still encourage them to write.

the front image was copied from thank you.


80a898dac48e313dfc891418ea61b4faWas it an act of bravery when you gave up drinking?”

“I never really gave it up,” she said. “That isn’t how alcoholics do it. They can’t do it that way. You employ a lot of sideways thinking instead. One day at a time, easy does it, live and let live, all that. But the center of it is this: you give up believing you can control your drinking. That idea was a myth you told yourself, and that’s what you give up. The myth… What I do – what we do – to keep away from the first one… it’s not that kind of bravery. In spite of movies like The Last Weekend, I think what we do is pretty undramatic.”

Stephen King, Library Policeman, 1990

The first time I read this story I was in ninth or tenth grade and didn’t start drinking yet. I tried it on more than a couple occasions, yes, but I had not even come to buy it or have been to a single drinking party. So, I don’t even remember reading this chapter where the protagonist Sam meets the couple of people who turn out to be problem drinkers and who he’s yet to find out are going to cooperate with him to beat the ultimate evil of Eternal Librarian and Sam’s greatest fear, the Library Policeman. I don’t remember alcoholics or the candy that Sam used to beat the evil, so to speak, but I do remember getting freaked out a bit. After all, Sam’s greatest fear came from a very real situation of being raped by a person in position of power, something he denied has happened to him for decades. Thankfully, he didn’t become alcoholic himself to deal with that experience.

When I read this book again earlier this year, the above passage struck me between the eyes. It is always kinda nice and kinda freaky for a bit to come upon something you’ve missed in the process in the past. It happened to me writing a story 17 years ago about a problem drinking who eventually dies from it, and not realizing that I wrote a cautionary tale to myself.

I always respected Stephen King for his writing, freaky or not, but I came to respect him more after finding out he had a serious drinking problem and addiction to prescription pills, and that he was brave enough to come through by joining self help groups like AA and kept going forward after that, keeping his family and keep writing great books. His writing about problematic behaviors, family violence, and addiction in his scary stories always made more freaked out because I could feel the real terror of it. The real horror is not the ultimate evil with fangs and bat wings, it’s what people do to each other.

And the real bravery and relief is learning that people do get through those experiences and still manage to have a good life after, learning from trouble others cause and from their own errors.

p.s. as for The Last Weekend movie, I think I wrote it before, maybe I should revisit it one day 😊

the image of Stephen King’s face made from the covers of all his books is amazingly done and an amazing idea and it was copied from thank you.