I am a reformed worrier. Oh, I still have those times when frightening thoughts take my mind captive, casting me into an abyss of worst-case scenarios, but those instances have lessened thanks to writing. If you are a worrier, writing may help your worried mind too.
Born with a vivid imagination, I could take a mole hill of a worry and turn it into a black diamond ski slope. Once as a I child, I thought I had a tumor in my throat when a clump of peanut butter got stuck. While getting ready for school during first grade, I threw up in my shoe over fear that I would forget the number of my school bus.
When my mother asked me, “Well, what is the number?”
I replied, “26.”
“See, you know it she said.”
“But what if I forget it?” I wailed.
I was that way for many years, always wondering: What if?
For instance, if I’d hear a report on the news—let’s say a carjacking—in my mind, I could picture myself at the mall being accosted by a masked assailant, forced into car at gunpoint, and tearfully begging the attacker to please take me but to leave my baby. At the time, I didn’t even have a baby! Just the same, the images I created in my mind made my heart pound and my palms sweat, inducing a panic attack. I did that quite often, making myself the protagonist in every drama until I learned to channel my runaway mind by writing.
What if? Those two little words are very powerful. They are a writer’s greatest tool for creating vivid stories, or they are the worrier’s starting gun for setting off a racing mind. Through many anguishing days, I’ve learned to stop tormenting myself with those words and have instead employed them as the kindling for stories where I could create catastrophic circumstances for characters—all for fun and profit!
While taking a meditation class one time, the instructor told us that in India elephants are often given a log to carry in their trunk to keep them from using that trunk to lash out when being paraded down a street. Our mind is like that elephant. If left unoccupied, it tends to wander and go out of control. However, if you give your mind the task of imagining a scene, it will take the focus from you and your worries and home in on creating a story for a character.
My suggestion for you if you are a worrier, the next time you feel your mind ramping up for an all-out anxiety attack, maybe grab a pen and paper or head to the laptop and don’t make yourself the lead character in your mental play, but instead create a scene for a fictional character.
Who knows you may hit upon the seed for a bestseller. You have nothing to lose—only your peace of mind.