Dear John: Confessions of an Anxious Writer

“I understand that stories are the keys that let us out of a consciousness we cannot always control.”


“I love stories because they let me out of this prison of myself.”

For a long time, I didn’t understand what you meant when you said that.

There are good kinds of escapes in this world. Healthy ones. Reading and writing alike let us take journeys away from the present so we can turn negative emotions and situations into beautiful stories. That I knew. I have always known.

I tried seeing things from your point of view then and for whatever reason found that I could not do it. When I write stories, it’s always been the opposite for me. It forces me to dive deeper into myself, to understand what I am thinking and feeling. To try and see writing as a way to set myself free was seemingly impossible.

I can’t (rather, prefer not to) explain exactly what has changed in the months since I first heard you speak these words. But I can say that I have come to a much deeper understanding of what you meant when you cited storytelling as a way for you to step out of your inner consciousness.

Lately, for me, writing has become something I must force myself to do. Not because I do not enjoy it but because stopping would throw me completely off balance.

I have discovered that I am two different people when I am writing and when I am not. When I write, I am honest. I am opinionated and decisive and intelligent, sometimes. I am driven and outgoing and always content. Even when I write something I know isn’t good, that doesn’t shake my confidence.

But in the real world, I am not that person. I am neither confident nor outgoing. I do not speak my mind. A lot of the time I don’t speak at all. It isn’t something I am comfortable doing and I’m not comfortable writing about it, either. But I can say that here, because here my words matter and they make sense and they are my wings.

This is a terrifying thing to realize but it is through writing that I have come to accept the reality of my existence. I cannot be who I want to be without my words. Searching deeper I have found that telling stories really does free me. I would feel eternally trapped if I did not have this outlet, and even on days when I struggle to write, something always comes out and it is usually enough to get me through the day.

I think you can admire a person for many different reasons. I admire you as an author because your stories speak to me and they are, as expected, beautifully written. But I also admire you for your openness and your willingness to talk about how important writing is to your mental health.

When I originally found this quote I wasn’t really sure why it stuck out to me so much. But I get it now. I understand that stories are the keys that let us out of a consciousness we cannot always control, and we can run and jump and say anything we want to in our stories and there is no fear. There is no hesitation. Sitting in front of my creations, I am so happy. So alive. Whole.

It isn’t that stories serve as an escape from our problems. Instead, stories are the pathways through which we can free ourselves from the barriers that prevent us from acting as our true selves. If there are parts of the mind that hold us back, also there are parts that drive us forward.

The only hope I have for myself, and for anyone else in situations similar to mine, is that someday we will figure out how to feel less trapped, and more free. I appreciate the places my mind allows me to go when I am telling a story. But I must always return to the places that make me feel inadequate, and this makes writing so much harder.

But so, so much more rewarding all the same.

DFTBA, Meg<3

Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.