Jung's Sofa

Writing: Maybe it’s not all in your head

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I love reading. A love that began at a very early age. Once I learned to read, I read everything. The back of the cereal box, the ketchup bottle, the newspaper, books, comics, anything I could read—I read. That hasn’t changed. If you want to have a conversation over dinner, be sure not to leave anything around, including condiment bottles, that might grab my attention.

I’m a writer too. I always have been. Before I knew how to write, I wanted to write. I remember pretending as a kid. I’d just scribble made-up stuff on a piece of paper, fascinated by the thought that there was a code within those squiggles and lines—that when I got them correct, I could communicate through those symbols.

Later, in school, I learned that most people are adverse to writing. While other kids strained to hit the mark on that five-hundred word essay, I struggled to contain my word count (I still do). Today, the love has not vanished, hasn’t even marginally waned. I write for work, I write for publication, I write for the sake of it. I have journals, word docs, Scrivener, Evernote, and notebooks without end. Much of my writing is now on the keyboard, but I remain fascinated by the magic of conveying intangible ideas through symbols.

I never denied the love of writing, but also, I never examined its source.

And then I bought a Fitbit.

But before I get to that lets make a brief stop to discuss something I hate—rollercoasters.

Couple have date in roller-coaster. Girl and boy

Oh, I’ve been on a few. And I am well-aware that one may overcome coaster-phobia by applying the same behavior modification methods used for other phobias. I have zero interest in such treatment. I’m not a physical thrill seeker. I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a “chicken” either. I won’t step onto a rollercoaster, but I’ll happily step in front of any size group and give a presentation. I’ll walk into that haunted house and hope…hope…it actually is haunted. I’m a fear junkie, I’m just not going to risk my life on some contraption built under all kinds of budget constraints. I’ll believe that coaster is “perfectly safe” AFTER I’ve interviewed the engineer and everyone who drove a rivet and turned a screw.

There is, of course, a physical discomfort associated with roller coasters. People who love roller coasters love that adrenaline rush. The rapid rise in heart rate (usually around 154 bpm), the shortness of breath, and the G-forces. According to one study of rollercoaster riders, half of the people tested had continued irregular heartbeats after the ride was complete and during tests, 44% of riders experienced “marked sinus arrhythmias that lasted up to five minutes after the ride.”

Now I’m no cardiologist, but that doesn’t sound like a good thing.

If you have coaster-phobia, in addition to all of that stuff, you also experience — dizziness, nausea, thoughts of death, and severe shortness of breath. So even if it is perfectly “safe,” it’s two minutes of feeling like you’re dying…and that doesn’t include the long wait beforehand in which you psychologically torture yourself trying to locate the exact spot the coaster is most likely to go off the rails or finding that missed bolt about to suffer a catastrophic stress break.

IMG_0927.JPGMy point is—I hate roller coasters. And maybe… for the exact reason I love writing—heart rate.

The great thing about my new Fitbit HR Charge is that it continuously measures heart rate. The App provides a nice chart display of heart rate throughout the day. I’ve been using it to keep my workouts intense and to spend the ninety minutes in the “zone.” I may be lifting weights, but to look at my heart rate you’d think I was sprinting ( I hate cardio work, so this is my trade-off). The downside to the Fitbit is I’ve become a little obsessed with looking at the thing.

Except that’s where I came to an interesting, not quite scientific, discovery.

In a review of the charts, I noticed periods when my heart rate become really low. Slower than when I sleep, by ten beats per minute. At first, I believed it was just a malfunction, but when I looked at the activities during those low rates I realized…those were the times I was “deep” in writing. I’ve tested it since with the same results and will continue to monitor it, but it gave me an idea—

HeartRateMaybe writing for me is not just mentally pleasurable, maybe it feels good physically too. The lower heart rate I experience is on-par with meditation. People ride rollercoasters because they love the heightened physical conditions. Maybe I write because I love the meditative physical conditions experienced. Perhaps the physical response to writing separates those who love it, from those who hate it, the same way they separate those who love roller coaster from those who hate them.

So if you hate rollercoasters, the next time someone tries to shame you into riding one, tell them you will…right after they write a 5,000 word short story.

2 replies »

  1. “So if you hate rollercoasters, the next time someone tries to shame you into riding one, tell them you will…right after they write a 5,000 word short story.”

    I love it!!!

  2. That’s so fascinating!!! I mean, we KNOW we feel relaxed while writing. And for many of us, it’s certainly an outlet, but to see fitbit’s chart backing up that it’s not *just* in our heads is so darn cool!

    Some of us, however, would take you on on that challenge! Writing then jumping on that roller coaster? Pfft! Easy! (No judgement on that rollercoaster being a kiddie ride, though. Let’s not get crazy O_o)

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