I may look calm, but inside I’m sort of an anxious person. Sometimes reading fiction just winds me even tighter. But to my surprise, nonfiction has become my medication. If I need to calm down, to banish my often irrational anxieties, I ignore fiction and reach for nonfiction. With nonfiction, my heart rate returns to normal and I calm down. Who knew one could use nonfiction in place of a drug?
Fiction is supposed to be the great escape, but escape to what? The very heart of fiction is conflict–it’s what drives any story. Yet if I’m already burdened by conflict or anxiety in real life, why would I want to take on someone else’s? So I often set fiction aside and find the lack of conflict in nonfiction to be a relief. Of course, there is tension in any well-written nonfiction, but it doesn’t feed my anxieties.
One possible downside to reading nonfiction is that, like drugs, it can be addictive. Hard news, I know, but it’s a risk worth taking.