New Year’s Reflections: Writing as a refuge

Shelter From the Storm
Image by Tony the Misfit via Flickr

When bad times come around, I always know I can write.

It all started when I was young. My mother always encouraged me to write, to even keep a diary or a journal. While I wasn’t the kind to sit and write out my day-to-day life, the journal was my first refuge when things went bad. When I was curled up in my room scared, or angry, or hurt, out from beneath the bed came the journal and pen, and I scribbled away my thoughts. Throughout the years, while I have not always journaled, some of my deepest emotions, and even my grieving processes, have involved writing. Consider, for example, this poem I wrote about losing my grandfather to cancer:

this soft bleeding madness
shreds thin strips of strength from my heart
slowly undoing the careful confidence
of his death, once a comfort, now –
disease, eating peace cell by cell,
multiplying pains of loss, of death,
a leukemia, akin to his own,
ravaging incessantly, roaming,
unidentified – unsharing in what may be
a diagnosis, some hope for a cure
let me drown instead, sink beneath warm waters
that taste like the salt on the dome of his head
when i kissed him goodbye.


A few years ago, times got rough for me financially. I had to find money where I could make it, and somehow, I stumbled across the idea of making money by writing online. I thankfully didn’t fall for any of the scam-jobs; I did, however, fall into a few sites where I could at least make some pennies on page views. Non-fiction writing, outside of schoolwork, was a new world to me, but there was one thing I knew: no matter what the subject, I was writing, and I knew I could do that. At first, it was just a hobby to keep me interested, to earn a few pennies, to eat up some time while I waited to get a new job (and then, something to kill the time while I worked at a slow job). I took i seriously, but didn’t think of myself as a professional writer by any stretch. I was just making a few pennies off my hobby.

A bad year came and went, and I found myself struggling to keep a job with the medical issues I had. While browsing job listings, my eye hit one for writing at Examiner. I browsed through the topics and applied to be the “MMORPG Examiner.” The topic was mostly on a whim, but I had been writing primarily about gaming for the past year, and I knew plenty about playing MMOs, so why not? I got the position, and shrieked and hollered joyfully. It was, after all, the first writing “job” I had applied for and been accepted!

I didn’t know it then, but only a short few months later, I would take full-time refuge in writing about online games. “Real” jobs were proving too stressful for my physical condition, and employers were frustrated with my constant calling in sick. I was coming to accept that to live with my “condition,” I would have to make my job work for me. With new clients hoping for my attention and work, I took the plunge and became a full time freelance writer.

What do these two anecdotes about emotion and work have in common? I have always taken a refuge in writing – either in expressing my emotion, or in knowing that it was one skill I had 100% confidence in myself in. I didn’t start freelance writing with many doubts. I knew I had the skills to write, in the same way I knew that I could cry out whatever emotions were stabbing at my heart onto a page.

The calendar “New Year” is the one I celebrate least. I celebrate Chinese New Year, and I celebrate Samhain as my personal “New Year,” so that the time I get around to the calendar new year – well, it doesn’t mean much since I’ve turned a new leaf only two months ago. This year, however, was different, and a personal emergency shocked my world the night before Christmas Eve. To be frank, it is still tumbling my world into a mess that I can’t easily describe, but which has shaken my confidence, my belief in myself, and even my identity.

The morning after, I wrote. I knew one thing I could do to help “fix” things, one thing I could do to keep my head on straight, and that was write. Write, write until I couldn’t think or feel my fingers or my eyes had given up on me. I plunged back into my work with every ounce of fervor I had. And so long as I was writing, I was calm, collected, focused, and confident. When I paused, the world resumed crushing me.

Sure, what has really been keeping me in focus is the forward momentum. For me, however, that momentum is only found in writing. It’s my vehicle for moving forward, for reaching new places, for taking shelter when I break down on the side of the road. And I’ll never doubt myself as a writer again.


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