Fiction Keeps Me Sane

A day without fiction is like a day without food, sleep or exercise. At times, I may be so busy I can only write for twenty minutes or can only devote fifteen minutes to reading a novel, but I don’t go without. This is requires no self-discipline. It’s like the desire to run that grabs me on a beautiful day or the need to get up from my desk for a yoga break.

My fiction time comes after I empty myself of the day with journaling and meditation. It takes a lot to shut down my community and planetary concerns and my ever-growing to-do list for work and then keep them shut down for the night. These thoughts aren’t unhealthy, but once I’ve talked with others and taken what action I can for the day, I need to shift gears to save my sanity. At a set time in the evening, I turn off everything but my laptop and in perfect silence, I write. Ah. The best time of the day.

There’s only eustress, not distress, in the effort of writing, even when I’m analyzing a stuck plot or revising the antagonist’s motivation again and again until it makes sense. At present I’m working on a “cut revision,” focused solely on eliminating excess verbiage. (And slaughtering darlings as I go.) It makes me happy. So does the first draft; so do the later revisions. Writing is totally absorbing in all its stages. This is what Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls flow. Activities that bring about flow create more happiness than those that are easier. Reading is more demanding than watching TV and is thus more likely to produce flow

I have to write at night, and then I have to read before I go to sleep. The harder the day, the more I appreciate my escape into a well-told story. While I’m in engaged-citizen mode or professor mode, I’m trying to make the world a better place, but in its own way fiction does that, too.

My fellow writers, I thank you. You’re doing your part to keep me sane.

Does anyone else depend on fiction this way? Or have I actually gone crazy?