Scratching an Itch

Why we itch has remained a mystery to science. And why a scratch will relieve an itch an even greater mystery. Scratching would normally excite pain cells but somehow, when applied to an itch, inhibits them instead. In an article in the NYT Science section, Scratching Relieves Itch by Quieting Nerve Cells , writer Benedict Carey documents the latest research about a study that indicates the answer lies neither in the skin, nor the brain, but in specialized nerve cells located in the spinal cord.

But beyond mosquitoes and poison ivy, there’s another kind of itch that may be harder to study. The itch to write or create.

I honestly don’t know what drives me to keep writing but it’s something akin to a mental itch that needs to be scratched, and the only way to scratch it is by writing more. On days I don’t write, I feel off base, as if something isn’t in balance. I get twitchy, unable to concentrate or appreciate other things. It doesn’t go away until I’ve written something — whether a blog entry, journal entry, or even a one-line poem.

I mean, it’s not the fame, is it? It’s certainly not the fortune. Aside from the odd paying gig, writing for a magazine, I earn nothing from it. Sometimes, okay … often … it’s not even satisfying. I fall so short of my writing goals I’m secretly embarrassed.

But write I must, and write I shall, cause I’ve got this … well … itch.

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