Stephen Ground

I write because I desperately need to be creative – and since I can’t paint, or sing, and I waited until my late twenties to start hacking my way through an instrument in earnest, it was an easy choice. Thanks to parents who put books in my hands from the time I had fingers, I developed an early love for words that bordered on the impractical. They were good to me and I was good to them, or so I tried, at the very least.

The acting bug bit hard in the tenth grade, mostly because I was (am) an applause whore and, upon graduation, I enrolled in a university theatre program for that coming fall, instead of a creative writing program, as had been the plan. Yet writing was never more important to me than when I had my first psychotic episode three weeks into that first September of undergrad. Once I regained some semblance of footing, I quickly realized that acting was no longer the right choice, but also that I needed to use my mind in constructive ways to get through the day, and the best way I knew how to do that was to be creative.

So, I wrote.

I wrote through depressions, manias, psychoses, binges, break-ups, and paranoia. I developed a system of taking meticulous notes in lectures as means to keep my studying and course reading to a minimum; that way, they wouldn’t bite into my extracurricular writing and reading. Basically, I discovered that I need writing to function – and I don’t mean that in a melodramatic, teen TV drama kind of way – I mean it literally, in a survival kind of way. It was, and continues to be, cathartic, mood-altering, and the best method of processing through feelings that may otherwise throw my life into disarray. It’s also the only way to dispel the beasts and ghouls that rumble around between my ears – you know, until they relearn how to pick the locks.

On nights like tonight, when I’m alone, anxious, and a hair beneath sober, it helps to slap a few words together as a form of reflective, self-regulatory therapy. The style of writing depends on the symptoms: rhyming verse for mania, short-shorts for some combination of anxiety and depression, an endless stream of haikus for those moments when it feels like the world is getting away from me, in general. The days I feel lucid are hotbeds for ambition: long fiction, from novellas to something larger and more frightening. Those days involve much excitement and hope from the onset, but usually end in an endless stream of haikus. It doesn’t really matter, if I get enough off my chest to ensure a sound, dreamless sleep and the energy required to survive tomorrow. With that in my back pocket, I’ll keep scribbling and scratching like a convict counting the days, freedom on my mind.

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