Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Think I have Mental Arthritis

A little while back I mentioned that writing is very much like exercise. The long and the short of the comparison was this: it takes effort to motivate yourself to do either activity, but once you start you feel better and easily continue for some time; feeling satisfied with your progress after you're done. I have also pointed out over the course of this blog that a lot of writing motivational tricks also work exceptionally well when used for exercising.

Well, this Writing Is Exercise metaphor continues today.

There was an arthritis medication commercial that aired for a year or so. The basic premise of the commercial was to use Newton's First Law of Motion as a selling point: An object at rest will stay at rest; one in motion will stay in motion. The commercial continued on by commenting on the Catch 22 of arthritis: you won't move because the arthritis hurts you to move, but moving is actually the only way to ease the pain of arthritis. So, this drug is supposed to help ease the pain of arthritis enough that you can move to prevent further arthritic damage and pain.

In other words, people with arthritis need to purposely keep moving the joint that is affected by arthritis. They need to exercise to keep from getting worse. They need to exercise to help ease the pain – after toughing through the initial pain of starting the exercise – and to prevent further damage. If they give up and not move because it's hard or it hurts they'll just get worse.

Also, as an emotional side effect, they'll get grumpier and sadder. They'll be angry with their body and the pain. They'll be saddened by the fact that they can no longer do what they love or join in on the social fun, or even keep their house clean by themselves. They'll be stuck; arthritically forced to stay still.

On the flipside, if they can power through the initial pain they can stop themselves from getting any worse. They can still enjoy an autonomous life. They don't have to be angry at their joints for forcing them to stay still. They can defy their body and tell it that they're not quitting yet!

How does all of this relate to writing though?

Well, at least for me, my brain is the arthritic joint.

It's so hard to get it moving. So hard for me to focus and think creatively. I get so frustrated with the stories not flowing as easily as they did in my youth; just like a joint acting up. It's a struggle to get going.

Most days I submit to this mental equivalent of arthritis and just sit here. I don't even do the most minor of exercises to keep it from locking up. I just click away on Facebook or absentmindedly watch TV.

That's when I get cranky. REALLY cranky. Heck, even celestialTyrant has noticed. It's part “the world's dragging me down, man” but it's also part frustration for caving in to my Mental Arthritis. Annoyed that I haven't tried harder to push through that initial strain so that I could do some writing.

I'm not entirely sure when – and I'm not about to scan through over a hundred posts to try to find something I may have only had as a Facebook status – but I once posed a Chicken or Egg quandary about writing. Do I not write because I'm frustrated, stressed, or depressed? Or am I frustrated, stressed, or depressed because I'm not writing?

Now I'd like to state that it's all about Mental Arthritis.

Life is hard. It's not nearly as hard as it can be, but it's not all that easy either. All that stress and strain of the everyday grind is like arthritis pain flaring up. I can just succumb to it all, sit in my chair, and refuse to move. I can let it all build up. I can not write – not move the arthritic joint – and let the pain compound. I can blame the pain for not doing what I need to; want to. I can let myself get frustrated at the Mental Arthritis for being there, as well as myself for not doing anything about it. It can become a horrible downward spiral. I can give in to despair and – much like someone with a bum knee who decided she can no longer be a runner – hate that I missed my opportunity to become a professional writer. I can sit and wonder what turn I missed somewhere. I can hate all the up-and-coming twenty-somethings who manage to write best sellers. I can tell myself that I've been kidding myself this whole time in to thinking I could ever write a published novel.


I can ignore the pain of my Mental Arthritis. I can fight through it, and do my “exercising” by going back to my No Zero Days. It will be a struggle at first – as all exercise is, especially when battling an arthritic joint – and I may not see results right away. If I stick with it though, I'll become happier. I will feel like I've accomplished something. That I've moved forward. Also, just like how exercising releases endorphins that help someone destress and become happier, so does writing. You can get lost in your words just as easily as you can in your work out. Minutes can quickly become hours. You may be a bit drained when all is said and done, but you're also strangely energized at the same time. Even with that arthritis, you can see yourself accomplishing your goals; and it will be an even sweeter victory because you had to struggle to reach it.

It's super hard. Pushing through that initial lock-up and strain is just really hard. Sometimes it feels like it's not possible. This entire summer has more-or-less been just me sitting on the couch yelling for my knees to work properly. I signed up for “exercise classes” that I never went to: Ali's On Track program as well as the Writers’ Huddle Summer Challenge. Things that worked wonders for me last year did nothing for me this summer.

I didn't have the push. I didn't have the drive. I didn't have the discipline. I just didn't care to fight any longer.

I want to fix that.

For months now I've sworn up and down that my latest vampire character would be my last one; I'm just not cut out to do at least the White Wolf Mind's Eye Theatre version of LARPing. It frustrates me. Once this character was either killed off or retired or whatever, that would be it. However, a new character sprung herself at me a couple of weeks ago. So she's been joining me at work the past few days.

It's not much, but I guess it would be like some with arthritic hands squeezing a stress ball to try to loosen up the joints.

I have no clue when Lottie will make her appearance – it could be just a few games, or it could be over a year from now – but it's fun to get those juices flowing again as I get to know her.

Also, Spink finished her profile for X-Future and is planing on starting up some soft role play later today. Having fresh blood on the boards may not be enough to revive the game as a whole, but it may be enough to get my writing flowing again.

I also have a huge backlog of stories. So I've got tons of exercise activities that I can chose from.

Music can be my arthritis medication; it won't do too much on its own, but it's a start that helps ease the pain enough for me to do the rest of the work.

Here's to hoping that having this epiphany about Mental Arthritis will help me actually accomplish some writing this week.

Do you have Mental Arthritis too? Let me know how you're fighting it in the comments below. Learning from each other is a fantastic way to improve ourselves.  

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