Writing to Combat Fear

If there is anything that is available in abundance today it is raw anxiety.

As a writing teacher, I continue to tell my students to write through this painful time in our collective history. Keep your pen poised, and one word at a time, lead your heart from the shadows.

Seneca advised us, weigh carefully your hopes as well as your fears. Seems all I see in my classroom is fears. The discussion boards, conversations, and personal emails are filled with anxiety about academic work, yet under it all, when I listen to my students, the words they share, I hear that my adult students are kept awake at night, stressing out about their job, gas prices, what is happening in the ongoing war in Ukraine, cyclical pandemic outbreaks entering their classrooms, widespread social isolation while trying to take care of and not bring Covid to aging parents.

Fears hound us throughout our days, nipping at our heels. Working and living in new arrangements has provided us with surprising disagreements. At my dinner table, we can find differing opinions about everything from the purpose and function of education, to health choices, to daylights savings and almost every single topic in between.

Leaving the house doesn’t make things better. Feels like a normal trip to the store can create yet another disruption to our serenity with road rage and interpersonal frustrations spilling over into unkindness to front line employees trying to sell a simple cup of coffee or attempting to get a person to the right seat on the airplane.

Writing a journal, a poem, a paragraph can seem like an overwhelming extra task in addition to the current state of affairs raging around us. We owe it to history to attempt to capture some of this space and time for those who follow.

To combat fear, and bring some semblance of calm, I am going to ask you to consider a daily writing, even if if it is a short reflection of what is happening and how you feel. All of us are living in surreal times. My 84-year old father says that the last two years have been the worst of his entire adult life. I find myself laying in bed in the middle of the night, heart racing, throat aching, wondering how much stress is possible for a person to endure.

Let’s write our way out of this place together, maybe if we all write down how this current bubbling cauldron feels from the inside, we might begin to feel better as a nation. Writing can be a form of magic, through composition, you can trap some of these anxious hours on the page, and pin them down, and as you do that, you defeat doom for a moment. Use reflection so that your fears do not occupy more head space than your dreams and intentions. Set a timer on your phone, promise to compose for ten straight minutes each morning, or evening. If each of us writes some of this suffering down, it becomes less potent, powerful, and destructive.

Write now out of care and concern for our collective tomorrow, because your words in these dark hours are essential to the health and future prosperity of our world. How we hurt, and how we heal could become a blueprint for a new way to be a community. Never has the world been more connected while utterly fractured.

You are valuable, and your reflections matter. Join me in a daily writing pledge to leave the pain on the page. We will get through this together, and love will prevail, one sentence at a time.

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