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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading and Writing: The Escape and The Outlet

Reading and writing. When written like that, they sound like an intolerably boring grade school class. I am a strong believer that both are for some and can be for others much, much more.

In fact, I tell you they are life-changing.  Both of them. I'm not talking about learning how to read and write, which is obviously necessary for reasons I care not to delve into. I'm talking about profound impact. They may have changed your life already and they could impact someone eases life and YOU could be the change wielder.

I'll start with reading.

Reading is The Escape. Escape from what? Well, that depends. What do you need to escape from?  A crappy job? An annoying sibling? A bad day at school? A bad home life? Abuse? 'Friends' who keep trying to talk you into doing drugs? The death of someone close? Life in general?

Everybody needs an escape. Everybody. Some need it more urgently than others but we all need it.  If you're reading this, you most likely have found The Escape that resides between the covers of a good book.  They take you away. They shut off the world around you.  They silence the voices that tell you you're not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. You enter a place of blissful quiet.  A new world with new surroundings, new people, new challenges.  You get to be someone else -to share an adventure, a romance, a mystery or maybe even something so terrifying, it will keep you up at night.  But even the terror is better than that place from which you've escaped. You can be inspired, awed, amazed, excited and....educated???

NOOOOOOOOO! Don't ruin The Escape with education! It's true.  While you're off in the arena with Katness, your brain is working, learning, becoming a faster, better, more perceptive machine.  Sometimes, that perception is strong enough to bring something back from The Escape and apply it to your life in the real world.  Imagine...being able to reach into a book and pull something out from you're favorite stories (if your envisioning grabbing Edward Cullen by his hair and yanking him through the pages of Twilight, please stop).  It's true! You're constantly picking up things -most often subconsciously, that you will use in your real life.

So, not only are you provided with a refuge from whatever it is you need shelter from, but when you return to our world, you return better armed to deal with the challenges all around you.

Now, if you're brave enough, you will share this gift, The Escape, with others -especially those who really need it.  Don't worry, they're easy to spot.  Over-stressed, anxious, withdrawn, temperamental, rebellious, mean spirited -generally those people you don't want to come into contact with are the same people who need The Escape the most.  I challenge you to find one, just one of these people and show them 'the doorway' (a book that will pique their interest).  That may be all you can do -that also may be all it takes. 


Writing -The Outlet

Again, if you are reading this you probably know what I'm talking about when I say writing can be an outlet.  Whether you're writing fiction, poetry, lyrics or simply writing in a journal, what you're doing can be likened to Professor Dumbledore pulling memories from his mind and putting them in his pensive.  It can unburden your mind of thoughts that have been bothering you.

Writing can be that relief valve that prevents a high-pressure explosion. Prevents you from saying something to someone you love that you should never say and know you'd regret the moment you say it. It can help you get out the frustration you have because your father hasn't been home in three days or your mom is drinking again.  It can be there for you when you witness something terrible and because you're the type of person who isn't going to talk about it, you internalize.  And constant internalization can poison a person and make them do things they normally wouldn't.

Write lyrics to a song that expresses your frustration.  Write a short story about a fictitious character who goes through something similar. Delve into her deep emotional inner-workings and walk through her coping experience on paper.  Keep it, burn it, crumple it up and punt it. Once the words are written, the valve is cracked and pressure reduces.  Writing isn't the only outlet -it's just the one I'm most familiar with.

Everybody needs an outlet. Everybody. There are those who need it more than others -those whose pressure is nearing the red-zone -but anyone can reach that point if they don't open the pressure valve and use The Outlet.

And guess what?  Through this process you're going to learn something.  I guarantee it.  Sentence structure, synonyms, metaphors, antonyms, spelling, grammar, aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Why?

The more often you ride your bike, the better bike rider you become. (Get it? A metaphor for frequent writing!) These tools easily translate into real life and increase the user's chances of success in many, many things.

The people who need it most display nearly identical traits as those in need of The Escape because, more often than not, lack of one begets lack of the other.  This, my friends, is why it is so important to read and write and to teach others to read and write. With rudimentary skills in both, you can show someone The Outlet and The Escape and quite literally change someone's life forever.

The Challenge: Find someone who needs The Escape or The Outlet or both. Introduce it to them in a non-threatening way and let them step through the door and dictate how it goes from there. Introducing a tool to someone whose at an emotional disadvantage (and doesn't know it) requires tact.  Nudge, don't push. Guide but let them steer.  Eventually, you'll succeed and know what it's like to change someone's life forever.

Try it, I dare you!

Tell me your stories, I'd love to hear them!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

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  1. Reading is an escape, I agree, but not all escapes are for dire, or even close-to-dire reasons. Even when life is good a book will transform, enlighten, or entertain. It would be great to have kids (or people in general) read as many hours as they watch tv/movies!
    Now writing, that is an outlet for sure. And so many stories come from an author expressing feelings he couldn't express in 'real' life.
    But there are stories of simple creation as well, that are not born of angst.

  2. Yes, reading is a great escape, Josh! Books sure helped me survive my childhood. And I agree--writing is a great outlet, too.