Please Note: This article first appeared in RWA’s official monthly newsletter, Hearts Talk, in November, 2008. (Im certain it’s still relevant) 🙂 SH

By Diane Curran

Recently, I wondered if I’d accidentally turned up to an AA meeting. We had several new people show up at our monthly writers’ group meeting and we were going around the circle introducing ourselves.

I seized the moment to have a bit of fun with my introduction…

‘My name is Diane and I’m a writerholic. Luckily, this group does not expect me to give up my addiction and there is no 12-step program to cure me.’

I’ve been thinking about the whole writing addiction a bit more and have some thoughts about why writing is better than booze (or nicotine or dope for that matter).

Writing is cheap.

At the bare minimum, all you need is a pen and paper. Although a computer can be pretty good, but after the initial outlay of costs, the process costs nothing but time and imagination. The same cannot be said for alcohol or cigarettes. (Or photography, painting, sailing, flying or any other number of expensive hobbies.)

Writing is cathartic.

You can write out your problems, remove the screaming banshees from your head and sort them out on paper. Sometimes it can even provide a solution, not a hangover.

Writing can be escapist.

If reality is getting you down, you can slip into another world of your own creation. Hang out with characters who may be more fun than the real world, even control what happens. And if you don’t like the direction the characters take the story, you can rewrite. Better than escaping through alcohol or drugs. Writing can be its own altered state of consciousness.

Writing exercises the grey matter.

That’s right! You’re not killing brain cells, you’re feeding them, stimulating them, exercising them, making them jump with joy. If you stimulate them enough, they will even work when you’re asleep, discussing the ideas between them in a miniature unconscious brainstorming which can unleash a torrent of words when you next boot up the computer or pick up a pen.

Writing can produce a natural high.

When you’re truly in the zone, and the story is zipping along almost by itself, it can feel fantastic. When you hear an audience laughing at your dialogue in a play that you have penned, it is euphoric. When you capture the perfect phrase or turn of words, you are exhilarated. When you see your story in print for the first time, or your book on the shelf, you are delirious. When you read back your writing months later, you can wonder how you wrote it and where the inspiration came from. And there is no after-effect, no hangover — unless you’ve sacrificed sleep and stayed up all night to write.

Writing is expressive.

You can say things that you might not say in real life. Role play through characters who are stronger than yourself, or more assertive. You can play with all the ‘what-if’s?’ and create many ‘sliding door’ moments. And you won’t be phoned the day after a drunken binge to have your indiscretions relayed back to you.

There are a few drawbacks. BICHOK’ing (Bum in chair, hands on keyboard) for days on end can cause the backside to widen, the hands to cramp and the eyes to lose focus. You must remember to leave the computer every hour, to stretch the legs, to flex the hands, and to gaze off into the distance and re-focus to save your eyesight. Still, it’s a small price to pay because your imagination is grateful for the playtime.

So if I had a choice of a night on the booze or the dope, or a night on the computer exercising my imagination, I know which one I would choose!

© 2007 Diane Curran

Diane is a writer of chick lit and young adult fiction, living on the Mid North Coast of NSW. She is thoroughly addicted to writing and has no intention of giving up anytime soon and fills some of her addiction at www.dianecurran.wordpress.com.

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