Comfort writing

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I’m used to the idea of comfort eating. In my time I’ve done more than a little comfort drinking. And over the last few months I’ve often soothed my stressed-out brain through comfort viewing on TV. But this week, for the first time, I discovered comfort writing, and realised that I’ve been doing it all along.

Many things affect what I choose to write each time I sit down. A market I’m aiming for, a story that’s niggling away in my brain like a frantic cockroach, a need to vent my anger or frustration or joy. A lot of the time I just pick what I was working on last. But not last Thursday.

Last Thursday, I sat down determined to write. I had several hours set aside and wanted to make the most of them. I’d been having a lousy week, and writing was going to make me feel better. But when I started looking at my list of stories my brain just wouldn’t work. That short story I started in the art gallery? Not interesting. That other one with the pirates and the flood? Too messy, just working out where to start was a headache. The great novel idea I’d cooked up? Too dark and serious for a week that already contained stress and loss.

Then I noticed an old file, a tale of action, adventure and mad science that I started years ago. I’ve picked at it occasionally since, but while I enjoy the characters and setting I recognised a while back that the story structure’s terribly messy, possibly irretrievably so, and I’d given up on it. But just seeing that file, thinking of those characters and the things they were up to, thinking of the fun I’d had writing them, it lifted my spirits. So that was what I worked on, typing away for two hours at a story that even I don’t think will ever see the light of day. It was like any other comfort activity – not productive, but it made me happy.

That morning’s writing is very precious to me. It reminded me of why I write, and left me feeling enthusiastic about my other writing. I might not touch that story again all year, but it’s served its purpose. One of my stories has made someone happy. That someone is me.