Yesterday, an American man named Andrew Joseph Stack crashed his single engine plane into an IRS office building in Austin, Texas.
Before going through with this fatal attack, Mr. Stack had attempted to remedy the dread, disillusionment and obvious anger he felt toward his government not by seeing a therapist, not by taking a crowbar to an abandoned Chevy and not by playing music or sports or going to the gym.
Instead, Mr. Stack tried (and failed) to alleviate his mental pain through writing.
There is a lot to be said for writing as a stress reliever. There are plenty of examples of people who use writing as a way to get over past traumas.
Others use the power of the pen to blow off steam. Just look at how fast the blogosphere grows on a daily basis.
But if you make the same mistake Joe made - if you manage to convince yourself that you can expel your demons and make all your problems disappear just by expressing and sharing your most intimate personal beliefs, that's where you can run into trouble.
The only way writing can serve a therapeutic purpose is if you get pleasure from the simple act of doing it.
If writing makes you happy, that's good. If you're seeking recognition or validation and using writing as a means to try to get it, then that can be bad.
What happens if you don't gain the recognition you think you deserve? What if you finish your writing project(s) and it turns out you did all that grueling writing work for nothing?
Since writing is by and large a wholly private process - a solo game between your brain and the blank page - it's no surprise that you might sometimes feel like no one is listening, that no one cares about what you're trying to say.
But the employed writer knows that isn't the point.
The employed writer knows that garnering a loyal, eager and receptive audience can take a career's worth of hard work.
if you're going to devote yourself to writing then the main reason you do it must be because it makes you happy to write.