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New Release Review

 

Writing Fantasy Saved My Mental State

Fantasy is sometimes referred to as “escapism” and it comes in many forms—whether that be reading a novel, getting immersed in a movie, or even playing a video game. That escapist state also comes while a writer is penning new stories—crafting new worlds, interesting magic, fun creatures, and adventurous plotlines. This is especially true when talking about high fantasy (fantasy that isn’t set in the real world) or epic fantasy (stories that span many books) but I’d also extend this escapist mentality to writers of historical fantasy (using history as a guide) and urban fantasy (set in the modern time). Writers get lost in their worlds; they escape into them while journeying with their characters. And it’s that same truth that saved my mental state back in 2016-17.

The Reader by Charlie Bowater

I’m going to get a bit darker than usual, but stick with me, the story gets better. The following is a brief history of my life around June 2016 – September 2017.

Back in June 2016, I was living in Portland, Oregon, and I had just graduated with a master’s in book publishing from Portland State University. I was on cloud nine during my graduation and the day after, my family took a vacation. We went on a cruise to Alaska, which tickled me pink because I’m actually from there. Two weeks later, my family went back to Alaska for their jobs and lives and such, and I was settling back into life in Portland.

Now, the job hunt officially began.

clock close up by ThomasWolter

Flash-forward to three months later, I still hadn’t found a job. It baffled me. I had a master’s degree, for goodness sake! And I was applying to jobs in book publishing and still, nothing. I began to wonder if I needed to expand my search criteria into other fields of work, so I did.

Flash-forward three more months and it’s December and I still haven’t found a job. I went from wondering why to being downright discouraged. I felt really sad. Disappointed in myself and the job market and wondering how I’d make ends meet if I didn’t get a job soon.

Inside the Clock by Jim KayFlash-forward three more months and I’d gone from discouraged to literally crying nearly every day. I couldn’t sleep. I had a weird rash on my hand that I blatantly ignored because who the hell has time for that crap (I admit that was one of my bad decisions during this time). It wasn’t good. I was applying everywhere, for everything, even things I was overqualified for and didn’t even want to do, because I needed a job. I still couldn’t land a job. It sounds overdramatic now, but back then, it seemed like my life was spiraling out of control. 

In June 2017, I discovered cockroaches in my apartment. Not one or two or even like…ten? About fifty or sixty of the little buggers had taken claim under my kitchen sink. Now, on my best days, I hate bugs. In June 2017, when I still hadn’t found a job and I had weird rash on my hand and I wasn’t in the best mental state, I literally freaked out. It was just another thing that I couldn’t deal with. One more thing that made me upset and teetered my mental state even further to snapping.

Bugs by RHADS

In July 2017, I got into a car accident. Totaled my car and got whiplash from it.

At the end of July 2017, I finally went to the doctors and got diagnosed with eczema on my hand. That weird rash? Yeah, not the best thing to ignore. It wouldn’t kill me, but I probably should’ve dealt with it when I first noticed it. I had to wear a glove for a long time trying to get my skin to stop freaking out, including at night.

By September 2017, I decided to go back home. I flew with my mom and my two cats back to Alaska and by October 2017, I had landed a job. A happy ending after all.

So how does fantasy writing and escapism fit in to this insane story?

Instruments of Truth by Deborah DeWit

Because during the entire intense year and a half, I would carve out time to write nearly every night. I wanted to start writing my fantasy novel after I was done with grad school anyway, so I started right after I came back from vacation. My fantasy, then titled What Am I Calling This Story? (now known as Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties), was the perfect escape after a long day of job hunting.

After filling out applications and sending in cover letters, I’d long for adventure in a world vastly different than my own. Then, when things started really spiraling, writing helped me keep my mental attitude under control. When I got annoyed at the weird rash on my hand, I’d write. When I got another rejection, I’d write. When I randomly burst into tears, I’d write for a long, long time. When my cats would come over and purr at me, sit with me and make me laugh, I’d write their antics into my story because they made me smile and I needed that.

And when I just needed a break from real life, I’d write.

Imagination by kelleybean86 (detail)

After an hour—or two or five—of escaping into my fantasy world, I felt better. Things didn’t seem so bad. Life wasn’t as difficult. I still had problems, of course, but I was always more relaxed after I was done writing. And quite frankly, it also felt really good to accomplish something that day. So even if I didn’t get that one job I wanted or hadn’t heard back from five others, at least I got a scene written, a character created, a chapter complete. A fantasy world that I could dive into when times got too tough.

Why? Because fantasy in and of itself is magical. It has magic embedded in its DNA and doing a deep dive into a world filled with swordfights and daggers, dragons and wyverns, spells and sorcery, will make you forget about real life. I could focus on character arcs and plot twists and creativity instead of cockroaches and rejections and stress. If only for a little while, I was actually in a whole different world from my own and I could do anything I wanted in it.

Air Mail by Joel Robison

And I honestly believe, if I didn’t have my fantasy world to sink into during that year and a half of my life, everything would’ve been too much and I would’ve either snapped or sank into a deep depression. I knew I wasn’t handling things well, so I did everything I could to drag myself out of a truly terrible mental state. As a writer, I fell back into that world, and fantasy took me in and guided me out the other side, with wyverns and magic leading the way.

Title image by kelleybean86.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar 600mysterypages says:

    Just want to say thank you for sharing this, made me smile. A reminder I needed today (:

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