Even though I’ve been writing seriously–as in, other than just for myself–for about six years now, I’ve always enjoyed writing. I chalk it all up to one beloved elementary school language arts teacher, Mrs. Hall, who asked her fifth grade students to write their own stories and critique them in small groups. I remember that mine was all about how my family spends Christmas together. It wasn’t Pulitzer material, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Since then, I’ve written down words in some form or another through journaling, research papers, poetry, blogging, or even Facebook and Twitter. Yes, I do count those as writing. Tiny outbursts of writing.

So, why do I do it? Why does anyone do it? Yes, writing’s a form of communicating our thoughts in a concrete way, but why do some of us go the extra step? Why do we create whole worlds with just our words? Why are we content to be stuck in our own heads for a while, emerging hours later with pages brimming with our characters’ adventures? Where does that itch to write come from?

I’m not a philosopher, and I can’t answer for the rest of the world’s writers, but I think I’m beginning to understand why I do it, why I feel the need to create in word form. It’s a means of escape for me, much like reading or watching movies or even sewing to an extent. It’s almost a zen thing, although quite a bit of concentration is involved, so it’s not completely meditative.

Funny that I say that. Generally, people want to get out of their own heads when they want to escape. Escaping means not thinking, or at least, not worrying about anything. Escaping means bliss and ignorance of what’s happening around themselves. Escaping means white sandy beaches and crashing ocean waves and warm salty breezes. At least, to me it does. So, why would I go chasing my own thoughts?

Because it’s another way for me to ward off the shadows, a kind of self-therapy if you will. This time of year is especially difficult, when the sun hides behind snow-laden clouds and darkness comes too early and stays too late. When we’re stuck inside where illness loves to play, bringing colds and pneumonia and stomach bugs to render us useless and listless. When our holiday expectations are always too high, and we end up disappointing someone yet again, whether it be our kids, our spouses, other family members, or even our friends. When we’re reminded everywhere we turn that the world is a harsh place to live in, and will you please give of yourself to those in need this season? (That last bit I do wholeheartedly. I know how lucky I am to have the life I do, to be able to fritter away on my laptop every chance I get. And every chance I get, I try to remember those who aren’t so lucky.)

So, while others might drink or immerse themselves in the Internet (I like to do that) or read or watch TV (love to do that, too) or do whatever it is they like to do to escape, I write. I write to free my mind of the characters waiting to have their voices etched in digital stone. To free my head of the plots and schemes ready to be fulfilled, the settings impatient to be designed and constructed. I write to free myself of my own anxieties, because as I write, a little piece of me gets left behind in my words. Sometimes, they’re obvious, and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes, they’re just the gray of snow-laden clouds or the dry brown of dead winter grass.

But other times, they’re the bright turquoise of the Caribbean sea as white gulls glide over, rising on gentle updrafts.

And that’s when you know I’ve truly escaped.

So, dear readers, what do you like to do to escape? If you like to write, what kind of writing helps you break out of your own head?

Thanks for reading.

A. Cook

Amanda Cook is a stay-at-home-mom and writer living in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. When she’s not caring for her family or obsessing over punctuation, she can be found helping out at her sons' school, catching up on her Goodreads list, playing (and sometimes winning, but mostly losing) board games with her friends, crying over her favorite PBS programs, or sewing yet another costume for the local gaming/pop culture convention, where she’ll probably lose at even more board games.

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