There are many things people do to calm down. Some people take a walk, others count to ten, very practiced serene people meditate. I've tried all of the above, but none work as well as my own personal favorite: editing.
When I was younger, I read Strunk & White's famous guide to American English writing, The Elements of Style. The book outlines eight "elementary rules of usage," ten "elementary principles of composition," and "a few matters of form." William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White also provide a list of forty-nine commonly misused words and expressions, as well as a record of fifty-seven words often misspelled. It's not a perfect guide, and in fact has received criticism on both sides of the pond, but for my elementary school self, there was something beautiful and calming about the simplicity and purity of grammar laid out within its pages. In its first edition (1918), William Strunk wrote: "Make every word tell." I fell in love with this, and with the idea that the free, fluid art of writing did have structure and a set of rules. (I also believe that this sentence is the reason I very rarely use Internet short-hand. Acronyms do not have the same look or tell as properly written words.)
I have not read The Elements of Style in years, but the basic principles have stuck with me. And while some people can't stand a slightly crooked painting on a wall, or grow faint at the sight of one unlit bulb in a string of lights, my OCD centers around spelling and grammar. Give me a written paper, a red pen, and some time, and I am happy as a clam. There is something extremely soothing about correcting spelling mistakes, fixing punctuation, improving word order and the flow of writing, and amending errors in grammar. Once everything is in order, when every word of every sentence serves a purpose in an aesthetically pleasing and correct way, I can literally sleep better.
I do not often have the opportunity to edit. To be sure, I edit my own writing; most often, my biggest problem is following E.B. White's recommendation: "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell." I have had a couple of chances to hack away at others' papers with a beloved red pen. But sometimes, when I am very tense (or extremely bored), I will take an old pamphlet laying around or one of the magazines shipped over to me by my parents, and flip through, quietly putting the page--and my mind--in order.
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