Wednesday 27 May 2015

On Writing: Broken Arm Priorities

Where is writing, and in particular, writing my book, in my list of priorities? I haven't touched it since February 22nd. My partner, another writer commented, that it was at least this year. If I've left it for three months it looks like its pretty low down in my list. How do I move it up?

A broken arm focuses you on specific priorities and a clear agenda. 
  • Rule No. 1: Only do things that avoid pain
  • Rule No. 2: Only do things that help heal
  • Rule No. 3: Only do the things you can do one handed

So everything that is not in these categories are not a priority for now.

  • Rule No. 1 is the easiest to enforce because pain is a great reminder and motivator and is constantly reinforced with regular association.
  • Rule No. 2 is harder because sometimes physiotherapy can hurt so breaks Rule No. 1. 
  • Rule No. 3 works out ok at the start but when trying to regain mobility in the affected arm this is an issue which then needs to go back and address Rule No.1 and Rule No. 2. 

So rules don't work. Not absolute ones. They need to change with circumstance and that's the problem with priorities.Whether you like it or not - they change.

So how does my broken arm help us here? By still being the focus whatever the circumstance. Whether I am doing something with the other hand, or physio with the hand of the broken arm or doing things in a way to avoid pain, it is all done through the prism of the experience of having a broken arm. It is the string tied around your little finger to remind you of something and the alarm call on your phone, except you don't need string or an alarm because physical pain does both jobs.

So are we looking at conditioning? In other arenas I would say yes, and discuss habits and the like, however for pain to work as a focus, it doesn't need to occur regularly or for a sustained period to work. It happens immediately on the first occasion. We then make certain associations with certain ways and patterns of movement which become habitual in our avoidance of pain.

What can I learn from this? How does this help me with other stuff like writing my book?

  1. As avoiding writing my book does not pain me, I am unlikely to write my book to avoid the pain.
  2. I can feel guilty that I am not writing my book which is something akin to pain.
  3. Perhaps if I try to develop my feelings of guilt about not writing my book I might try to avoid the pain of this guilt by writing my book.

So to prioritise do we need to foster our guilt?

Whether we call it living up to expectations, meeting deadlines, showing commitment, trying not to disappoint, or let others down, or avoiding feeling ineffective...sometimes we do things, not because we want to, but because we would feel bad if we didn't. How many people don't like going to work but still do? How many people do the wash-up when they don't feel like it? How many times are we polite in circumstances where we would like to tell people to take a short walk off a long plank?

I don't because I'd feel bad, perhaps not immediately, but at some point. So if I want to finish my book I must feel bad that I'm not doing it. But right now I don't. Maybe after my broken arm has healed, because right now, just doing everything in normal everyday work and home life is hard enough.

It feels like that puzzle, the sliding tile puzzle, where you have to shift the squares around to make the picture and some squares have to go before others and when you finally get the right sequence, it all falls in place and the puzzle is solved.

Guilt is only useful in preventing me from doing something I might regret through action or inaction. It can be a reminder of the responsibility I have for my own actions to keep me accountable to myself at least. 

So whether I move the puzzle pieces or don't move them, or move some and not others, I have a picture, not necessarily the one I want, but it is of my making.

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