As aphorist Mason Cooley almost said.
There’s no doubt that reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially when it comes to escapism. But what of writing? Stepping into an imaginary domain of your own creation, having the power to shape your own worlds and visit them any time you like? Surely there can be few better diversions when everyday life gets a bit grim. In your writing, at least, you can have some measure of control. A small chance of a happy ending.
Creative writing can indeed be welcome escapism but writing in other forms can also serve a useful purpose. Functional writing, be it spectacularly vitriolic poetry or angsty blogging, has the potential to make a hugely positive impact on the author. Let’s face it; there’s plenty of things we would all like to say that we don’t always have either the opportunity or the courage to do so.
The unsent letter is a popular therapeutic tool. There is no doubt that it can be incredibly cathartic to scribble down your innermost thoughts about something that is troubling you. Your reactions, responses, all those pithy one-liners you couldn’t quite think of in time when somebody said something upsetting or enraging. Putting it down on paper can be a good way to process an emotionally thorny issue. Not only can you get it all off your chest, metaphorically speaking, but writing allows you to take some time to marshal your thoughts. Less immediate than simple verbal expression, the enforced delay can assist when you need to attain clarity. Re-reading your words can help give perspective, suggest solutions or offer comfort you previously couldn’t see.
The key word is, of course, unsent. However, those of you who possess a similarly masochistic streak to myself know how hard that particular type of restraint is. Once your words are down, making sure the message is passed on to the person who has done wrong by you is very hard to resist, for all that you know it will just hurt you further. Getting your thoughts out into the ether is all very well but simply letting them float free, unfettered, without a target, does have an element of aimless resignation about it. As writers we want our words to have power. To mean something. To provoke a reaction, good or bad.
I would counsel you not to send such missives but that would be hypocritical of me. Does it work? And if you mean by work, heal me of my grievous wound? Hardly. But would I do it again? Absolutely. Having to say my piece, whatever the cost, is a lure I am always unable to resist.
I was once described as blunt yet healing. It was, I believe, supposed to be a compliment, although as I remarked at the time, I would prefer to be described as incredibly intelligent and sexy. As it later turned out, I am apparently too blunt and not sufficiently healing for this particular acquaintance. I think it, I say it. A lack of filter has always been one of my less appealing qualities. But then I am, as are we all, a work in progress.
So to that end, I say scribble away. Get it all out. Will you feel better? Possibly. Will you feel worse? Very likely. But at least you will feel.