Tuesday, August 16, 2011

OCD: Obligatory Conscientious Dedication?

OCD: Obligatory Conscientious Dedication

I finally beat the Spider Solitaire game I've been playing since Thursday--on the very day I began my attempt to break the compulsions to crochet (while watching videos), aimless surfing and lurking on blogs, checking news, email, fb and other social networks (like cheezeburger.com) I go and start one of those games that I know can own me for days.

I never know tho as I begin the game if I will win it in fifteen to fifty minutes or be stuck for days. When I started playing I needed something relaxing that I could do with my right hand only as the pain in my left arm was significant through Saturday. I should have picked Minesweeper or Freecell.

But I managed to include a lot of contemplation as I played. I made it a point to observe myself and what I was doing, feeling, thinking. I realized it wasn't completely ridiculous to have chosen another compulsion to replace the ones I was trying to interrupt and at least there was an endpoint as eventually I'd win the silly game. So I mused and planned what would come next.

As I moved the cards around I observed my need to solve the puzzle and the persistence with which I applied my mind, time and energy to that goal. There seems to be no reason why such traits cannot be applied to one of my other, more productive goals. Why is it that I so seldom do?

Because one of the things I was reminded about myself is that it doesn't matter what the activity once I'm engrossed I resist with all I'm worth setting it aside until its either finished or I'm mentally or physically finished. I forget to eat until I'm faint with hunger, to sleep until I'm beginning to hallucinate, to attend to other self care tasks until even my cat flares his nostrils when near me.

In the last couple of years the activity most often taking over like that has been the crocheting. But there have been occasions when the same thing has happened with my writing though sadly not with the same ease or regularity as with puzzle games and fiber arts, reading, video watching, and online browsing and lurking.

I asked myself why is that? But I already knew at least part of the answer. The payoffs on those things I've been more likely to persist at are more sure, more short term and more measurable. Anybody can see the advance of the rows on the afghan, the hundreds of neatly stacked crocheted bookmarks, the win screen of the game, the bookmarks advancing. And gratification is instant when I click on a link or browser bookmark.

I'm the only one who sees the words accumulate on paper or screen and the only one who judges them worthy (or not) though I'm likely the least able to be objective about it. The completion of a short story can take weeks and the completion of a novel can take years supposing of course I can even identify the finish line.

I wish I'd discovered Laurie Halse Anderson's Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge for the month of August before the month was half gone as I've noticed often that applying myself to a new activity for only fifteen minutes is often all it takes to become engrossed in it thus switching my obsession from one thing to another. And it is rare that I actually stop after the fifteen minutes are up.

I've been following along in Anderson's blog and on fb the progress of the challenge but hadn't been participating. I don't know why as there is no accountability to anyone but myself. I suppose it is that other obsession of mine: perfection or completeness or something like New Year's resolutions you forget to start on January 1 so you wait until next year. Completely irrational, yes?

Yes. So I'm going to take on the WFMD challenge for the duration of the month. Blogging doesn't count as I've been maintaining a perfect streak of daily posts since April 2006 and often have wondered where my fiction, poetry and personal essays might be today if I'd devoted as much time and persistence to them as to these daily posts.

What counts: (according to me not LHA) character sketches or a character's first person meanderings, morning pages, random musing, word lists, personal (private) journaling, poems, story world descriptive passages, memories, dialog, rants or one of Laurie's prompts.

Because they are natural breaks from other activity I might be involved in the three most likely times of the day to begin the fifteen minutes are: immediately upon waking (well after making coffee maybe); immediately after dinner/dishes; immediately after Ed gets up which naturally puts an end to my video streaming :) or if I'm laying down before he's awake then immediately before that but in both cases I should take care not to become so engrossed I'm still at it at noon.

0 tell me a story:

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