ProAm Tip # 39 - Pushing through and using adversity to your advantage.
So, I’m a writer. Big shock, right? I blab about character and setting all the time, I have the gall to think I can offer advice on the craft, I over-caffeinate, I’m reclusive. Typical delusions of grandeur. That’s how I know I’m a writer. Also, the writing. I write. A lot. On a decent day I can lay down 5-7k. On a frenetic, push-till-the-end day I can hit 10-12. I lay down words. Enough bragging. The point is here.
A couple weeks ago, I lost my temper, and in a stupidly childish fit of anger punched the top of a desk. It didn’t even hurt. Not really. It started to about half an hour later. It swelled a little, became hard to flex, and then started to hurt some. Like, I barked my shin really hard hurt. Not, like, holy shit my hand is on fire. Not ‘I just broke a bone’ bad.
Except that I did.
The bones in your fingers are like little sticks. And even though they end at your palm, there’s another set of those same stick-shaped bones in there, under the skin of your palm. They’re called metacarpal bones, and you have five of them, one for each finger and your thumb. The one behind your thumb is the first metacarpal. The one behind your pinkie is the fifth. Each metacarpal has a thickened knob at either end.
When I drove my fist into the desk, the knob at the end of my fifth metacarpal, the one closest to my pinkie, snapped clean off. The broken end rotated up toward the top of my hand. It’s full-on dislocation. The ends of my bones began to bleed. My hand swelled, the pointy ends of the bone dug into the swelling flesh, and the ouch became a much more serious issue. This is a common type of break. It’s called in the parlance a ‘boxer’s fracture’ and it’s more serious than it sounds. So the doctor, a very nice man with a sense of humor that is apparently an aberration in the ortho community froze the skin of my hand so that he could jab a really unnervingly long needle into my hand, injecting lidocaine in a disturbingly sewing-machine-like behavior, drawing the needle out and putting it back in many, many times. I can’t tell you how many as I was staring at the floor, nauseated. I would have been so even if I didn’t have a severe needle phobia. After letting my hand numb, the doctor set my hand using a complex mix of machinery and effort known as ‘pressing a pen on the top of the hand really hard while pulling on my pinkie until I felt the bone rotate and realign. Yeah.
I wore a temporary cast for a week until the swelling went down. My hand turned an interesting shade of purple. After a week I went back and they used a nifty triangular sheet of hard-setting plastic to form a more solid cast. Because it’s a fifth metacarpal, I only needed a partial cast instead of the full-on wrap-my-hand-like-a-mummy cast.
Incredibly long story short, now I’m in a cast.
I’m a writer. And I broke my hand. Leaving aside the three-year-old-having-a-temper-tantrum reaction, I’m a writer with a broken freaking hand.
I can obviously still type. But although everyone has been pointing this out, that’s not really an up-side. You see, my normal rhythm is off. I can’t find the groove like I normally do. Even typing this has been a start-and-stop exercise in frustration. It would be easier to stop until I heal.
But. I’m a writer.
I have books to write. I have one finished I need to edit. I have another I’m close to finishing up. I LOVE my books. I love my work. I love writing. Here’s something I’ve not told anyone. IT HURTS.
After five or six minutes, the broken portion of my hand aches. It throbs. It doesn’t hurt at all, until I begin to use it like this. It’s like a needle pricking me right at the site of the break.
I asked the doc about this. He said it would. I’m not gonna affect the healing by typing since I can’t use my ring finger or pinkie. They’re straight out in front of me. But moving the hand moves the flesh, which moves around the healing area. Hence, pain.
So the big question is: why do I keep going?
You’ve got to ask yourself, is it worth it? The pain? Whether it’s my hand, or staying up later than you should, or getting up early to write before you go to your soul-crushing job, or scribbling in a notebook because you don’t have a computer to write on. Why do you keep going?
I keep pushing myself even though it hurts like the blazes because I HAVE to. I’m driven. I’m possessed. Probably crazy.
But here’s the thing about this: you COULD stop. It’s easier. You COULD just do things that are easier. But you don’t. You push. You keep going. You write through the pain. Or the lunch break. Or the ten minutes between class. Or whatever it is you squeeze your writing time into.
And when something gets in your way, like this, like my hand, or like whatever you struggle through to lay down words, you keep pushing. Whether you put down a hundred words or one, or a thousand, you keep going. It makes you crazy. And yet we keep doing it.
Because we have to. If you find the strength to push on, it’s because you know deep down it’s worth it.
Those moments when your resolution flags, when your confidence wavers, remember that, even when your whole life sucks, you keep writing. You’re driven. Embrace it. USE it.
And if you’re driven when it’s hard, and you do it when life sucks, you can do it every other time. The times you don’t feel like it. The times you want to watch a movie instead.
The times things got hard and you wrote? That doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It means you’re serious. It means you’re dedicated.
I’ve been putting barely a thousand words down and my hand aches all day when I do.
But… imagine what will happen when I’m no longer in this cast? No longer in pain when I type?
And imagine what you’ll do once your own adversity passes.