IWSG: My Best Coping Mechanism

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

I don’t usually answer the optional IWSG question each month, but this month’s question sort of relates to what I wanted to write about anyway:

How do major life events affect your writing?  Has writing ever helped you through something?

I can answer these questions fairly easily, or at least I could until recently.

  • In 1993, I lost my father. Books helped me cope with that, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune.  This is the reason why I decided to become a writer.
  • In 2008, I discovered that my girlfriend, the only woman I’ve ever truly loved, was cheating on me. So I wrote a cheesy Sci-Fi love story, and that helped me cope.
  • For well over a decade now, I’ve worked in the news business. It’s a high stress job that often exposes me to some of the worst that humanity has to offer. So I’ve been writing a series of short stories and novellas about a journalist who travels through time. That helps me cope.

Throughout my life, writing has always been my best coping mechanism.  But there have been times when I’ve been too stressed, too traumatized, or too emotionally drained to write.  So what do you do when your best coping mechanism fails?

2018 has been an all-around troublesome year for me. Minor and major life events seem to keep piling up.  Witnessing a murder back in July was obviously the worst, but even before that happened I was struggling.  I spent much of this year dealing with financial problems, health concerns, and a work-related issue that took an agonizingly long time to resolve.

The latest crisis has been family drama.  I have a couple relatives who do not have the foggiest idea what’s wrong with me but who apparently know exactly what I should be doing to fix it.  Admittedly, this is not the worst thing that’s happened to me this year. But still, it is so irritating.

Through this whole pileup of problems, my writing has been inconsistent.  Some days, some weeks, I go into a writing frenzy unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past.  But other times, I feel so worn out that I can’t write anything at all. This is understandable, I think, but it’s also a problem because when I have so much stuff to cope with, I really need my #1 best coping mechanism to work.

24 thoughts on “IWSG: My Best Coping Mechanism

  1. I feel this one deeply, James. After my toddler had a seizure a month ago, I spent my time in the ER with her writing about it, because that is always how I deal. Then I just… dried up. Whenever I sat down to write I hit a wall. It’s easing now, but I found it oddly lonely while my best coping mechanism abandoned me. It was hard to keep myself from sinking into a dark place.

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    1. I remember you posting something about that, and I was very worried for you. I guess, in a way, writing can be a mixed blessing. It has so much power to help us, but whenever I’ve had a writing breakdown like that, like I had right after the shooting, suddenly a bad situation can become a whole lot worse.

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    1. Thank you! I have been surprised and encouraged by how my urge to write keeps reasserting itself after each catastrophe that’s hit me this year. That gives me reason to believe that my writing can and will rise above this in the end.

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  2. I had a year like. My parents were out of town, their dog was hit by a car and one lobe of the liver perforated the diaphragm which meant a possible $10k surgery that gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving. I had to make the decision to put her down because she was in so much pain. I was keeping her comfortable in the meantime. Told my nephew to stay away from her, but he didn’t and she bit him. Had to rush him to the ER for stitches and send him home to his mom (his dad later threatened to sue me to cover plastic surgery for the minor scars). And a friend ended up in the hospital with a brain bleed from a fall. All of this the day before Thanksgiving! Needless to say, I didn’t go to the family dinner. I got Black Angus to go and stayed home with my family. I should have been writing, but like you, I was SO worn out emotionally, I just couldn’t and that might have been the thing to help me to cope in the first place!
    Here’s hoping both of our 2019s turn out better. 🙂

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    1. Agreed. Sounds like you had a really tough time, and all in one day too! I don’t know, maybe jumping straight back into writing after that would have helped, or maybe not. Sometimes I think we do need a little time to process this stuff before we start putting words down on paper.

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  3. That’s a massive load of challenges you’ve experienced this year and, whilst the family drama may be the lightest of the loads, I understand only too well the size of the emotional toll. The genuinely empathic do not behave that way – as instead of helping you they are meeting their need. I hope you find a way to put their interference aside and/or gain support in doing so. As for your muse, I’m glad she’s hanging on in there & that your will to write keeps fighting back to the surface.

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  4. Wow, James. That’s a lot to carry. Like people above said, I’m surprised you’re able to keep writing. Here’s to you. I see where you’re coming from. I write as a coping mechanism, too, but sometimes it feels like there are no words left. I admire you for what you’ve been able to get done while getting through such difficult things. Here’s hoping things get better for you, soon.

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    1. Thanks, Scott. It’s been really encouraging to hear from so many people who also use writing as a coping mechanism. It works really well, except when it doesn’t. But I do feel like things are starting to get better for me, and it seems like my writing process has survived all this more or less intact.

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  5. I can get too enmeshed in the writing world to do anything about my real life problems when they are traumatic or stressful. When I was younger, and relied more on other people to rescue me, it did not matter. Now it does.

    Funny how family always knows how to “fix” us, but don’t really care about the real problems. Simplistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! I was trying to explain this to a friend just the other night. Real life can be tough. Thinly veiled metaphors in a science fiction-y setting… that’s easy for me to deal with.

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