Writing and Chronic Pain: 2 For the Price of 1! Today Only!

I’ll admit shamefully to being AWOL from the internet for the last couple of weeks. Oh sure, there was a witty tweet here or there, but I just didn’t have it in me to sit down and converse with my friends on Critique Circle or post on Facebook or even update my GoFundMe supporters. I thought it was a lack of creative juices flowing. Then I thought to myself, No, if that were the case I would make something explode and everything would be back to normal. I pondered that perhaps it was partially due to participating too much at work (ha-ha! Alliterations!) but then during Christmas I worked plenty, and still managed a post here and there.

Why I wasn’t immediately able to identify it as a mental issue brought about by chronic pain is beyond me. You’d think by now I would instantly understand that chronic pain, and indeed any chronic condition has this inherent ability to burrow itself into your psyche and lay waste to what was once a fruitful and thriving land of social norms. Chronic pain is like an agricultural bacteria that eats away at the crops you spend weeks and months cultivating, leaving you with a wasteland. You don’t want to do the things you love, you don’t want to be healthy, to exercise. You don’t want to talk to friends or be social. You just want to curl up and sleep because at least in sleep you might be able to escape the pain for a few hours, and during that time your brain has a chance to sow new seeds and tend to them.

I let my crops rot in the ground over the last month or so, and I’m not certain why. It was certainly an unwilling choice on my part.

Then again, I always have theories. Some of them even make sense. For one thing, work has been busy and, for whatever reason, people have generally been unpleasant to deal with. I had a gentleman from Manitoba tell me what was wrong with Alberta’s politics just the other day. The irony was palpable; the self-awareness was not. Angry people drain me. They’re like a blistering sun, a thicker, summer heat that dries out the land. Angry people, unfortunately, tend to wear on my mental crops.

But I can deal with the angry people, usually with ridiculous cheeriness. So it couldn’t be them. Not really.

It could be, in all likelihood, pain. Because over the last month or so it has been bad. Despite the glory that is my Cymbalta, I’ve felt twinges of familiar nerve pain begin where my spine is pinching and grinding and generally being unpleasant. The arthritis is acting up, to the point where even wearing some pants put too much pressure on the bones, creates noticeable pain. Too much of it, in fact. I do strengthening exercises; I try to be aware of my posture. Shoulders back, stand up tall. It only hurts more. No excuse, you keep trying because if you stop then the pain wins, and you need to at least feel like you are fighting against it. Sometimes I’d like to let the pain win, but then I wouldn’t be me. That thought is almost as exhausting as the pain itself.

Maybe it isn’t pain. Maybe it is the stagnation of creativity that I’ve been battling since I sent my manuscript to the editor. There have been days when I’ve wanted to reread it, to go over sections, just to remind myself of the tiny details, but I resist. This should, theoretically, be the last week that she has it (unless it needs more work), which means soon enough I’ll have it back and can begin plugging away on the changes that I need to make for it to be presentable to the rest of the world. Easy enough, I suppose. In the meantime I’ve been thinking about book 2, doing research and the like. I fell into a crevasse with it, realizing that something I wanted to pursue, a plot point, just wasn’t realistic. That sent me into a tailspin, trying to come up with a better alternative while still maintaining the character development that needs to happen. I went out and bought myself a notebook that has space kittens on it. That is, kittens in space. It is my idea book where I’ll do my damned best to work through some of these ideas and try to find a more reasonable solution. Normally it is easy for me. Normally I get an earworm that whispers mystical secrets about the universe and also about my narrative, and that is that. A solution. Done.

Not this time. Do I keep this character or that? How does that person die? How will that person live? Explosions or viruses? How much trauma is too much? That last point, at the very least, I’ve managed to, not master per say, but understand efficiently enough that the whole narrative doesn’t seem campy. Still, it feels like stagnation. Creativity at a standstill.

It is an ironic sort of cycle. I use writing to help with the pain, but what if the pain is too distracting to allow me to write? What do I do then?

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