Solstice's Vent and Education Workshop

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The player scrapbooks forum is literally a place for writers to warm-up, brainstorm, keep little scraps of notes, or just post things to encourage themselves and each other. Each player can feel free to create their own thread - one per account - and use them accordingly.

Solstice's Vent and Education Workshop

Postby Solstice on October 6th, 2018, 8:48 pm

Moving On Through Writing
So, I’ve never been really good at the whole diary/blogging thing. I’ve got about a dozen diaries from my childhood, all with only a page or two filled and nothing else. But I think diaries can be cathartic… and there's something about being able to use a diary to look back and see what your previous mindstate was like at the time. It gives perspective. Plus since this diary is public, I could potentially use it to inform. So that's cool too.

I’ve been thinking about expression and how we use writing to convey concepts and emotions, so I wanted to write about that a little. I’m not very good at expressing myself in standard ways. Just saying that I’m feeling sad or hurt often takes a great deal of effort for me. I often feel like people don't really want to hear what I’m going through, or I’ll be a burden if I talk about it. If I do say things, it's usually along the terms of 'I'm upset about this, but it'll work out' or 'but I'll be okay'. Whatever it takes to not burden others. I think that really shows how comfortable I have grown with the Mizahar community. I say a lot of things in chat that I’d never say anywhere else, especially aloud.

I don't have a very good family life. I live with my parents and, whether intentionally or not, they treat me like a burden. I can't really express myself to them, because whatever issues they are going through are always more important than mine. I accept that they’ve got a lot of problems themselves; my Mom has terrible chronic pain due to a botched spinal surgery, and my Dad has dementia. But there’s no room for any of my problems, so I’ve had to learn to express myself in different ways outside of just...y’know. Talking to someone.

That brings me back to writing. Although just writing about your feels all diary like as I’m doing here is great, it doesn't really scratch that itch in the same way. I read and play video games a lot, and the ones I’ve had the strongest emotional connection to have always been ones in which the characters are going through similar emotional struggles as I’m dealing with at the time.

Wandersong, a game I’m playing right now, is a really good example of that. On the outside, the game is about a silly bard trying to save the world from mutually assured destruction with the power of music. But there's hidden depths to it. The protagonist deals with his own insecurities about not being good enough to do what needs to be done and nobody really believes he can do what he's set out to do. And meanwhile, he tries to remain optimistic. At one point, he and his companion, a grumpy witch with her own insecurities, have this incredibly heartfelt conversation while dancing in the middle of a nightclub. She tells him that she doesn't understand how he manages to remain cheerful all the time, and brings up a time where everything he believed crashed around his head, but eventually he got over it. He tells her that he doesn't really think he ever got over it, he’s just continuing to move forward because that’s all he can do and it's better than doing nothing.

This whole game, but particularly that conversation had a really big impact on me. I would rather be happy if I can. It's uncomplicated, and it makes everyone around you feel better. But in real life, you can't just be happy all the time. Bad things happen no matter your circumstances, and we as people have to figure out how to get through them. Figuring your own emotions out and how to express them is something deeply personal, and sometimes just saying how you’re feeling isn't able to express the fullness of your feelings. So I’ve fallen on writing as a way to express complex emotions and themes that I wouldn't know how to say otherwise.

Anja and Rook are both really good examples of characters I created as means of expression. Rook is a victim, and an outcast. His bondmate is the only person he can actually trust. But Rook as a character is the kind of person who won't give up no matter what is thrown his way. Even as he suffers, he keeps moving forward, looking for solutions, and trying to find ways to survive a world that tries to strangle him. Rook’s stories inspire me to keep trying, even when the world dumps everything on top of me all at once, and even when it hurts to keep going.

Meanwhile, I chose to write Anja because death is an extremely complicated nexus of emotions for me and I wanted to create someone who understood and accepted it better than I do. Anja sees death as a natural process within the world, and in allowing himself to be entwined in it he’s able to see the beauty in the reflection between life and death. Writing Anja comes across as poetic sometimes. A lot of his beliefs are things that I want to feel, and writing helps bring me closer to seeing things the way he does.

I’ve always written about subjects close to my heart, since long before Miz. They’re means of expression that are too complex to be explained through words alone. Sometimes if you look directly at a problem, it's too bright and you can't see the nuances with it. Writing lets you circumvent those problems and explore the subject with more nuance. And it can reveal a lot of details that you might not have noticed otherwise.

Anyways, this is getting a bit rambly and long-winded and if I go on much longer than I’ll wind up not posting this at all. I suppose if I want readers to take anything away from this scrap, it's that if you don't already, you should consider putting as much of yourself into your writing as you can. When people write about subjects that are dear to their hearts, they endear themselves to their readers because the writing comes off as genuine. And there’s always a chance that your writing could impact your reader, and help them to understand and move through their own issues.

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Solstice's Vent and Education Workshop

Postby Itt on March 12th, 2019, 5:47 pm

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I know this was posted a long time ago, but since I was reading it, I wanted to stop and take a moment to respond since there are definitely some real things that I feel like I relate to or respond to.

I'm sorry to hear about your home life, I sincerely hope that things have at least started to improve since last October, but I know you've been having some trouble and sleep so I'll continue to keep you in my thoughts and hope that things will turn up for you. Those things really suck, and there's not a lot that you can do about it sometimes, so just know you have support, at least from me. As always, if there's anything I can do, let me know, I'm always willing to lend a hand.

As far as writing to express your feelings and emotions, and writing characters that can do things that you wish you could do— Imma be honest and say that I was thinking about this the other day with Itt, actually. Itt is, like, the purest and kindest person I can possibly imagine who is having to deal with living in Ravok where people are always out to use him. I've been excited for characters before, but I can't say I've been as excited as I have been with writing Itt. I feel like that may be because Itt is the kind of person I want to be. Itt somehow brings out the hopeful side out of people who normally don't trust easily and kind find something to like about the world, even if he's fearful of it sometimes. That's the kind of person that I've always wanted to be, the one that brings out the good in people, the one that is honest and open to people.

He also has some similarities to me in that I've always been viewed as a bit childish, with good reason, by others, both in a positive and negative way. Itt is very childish, not only because he technically is one, but also in just his personality, so I can connect with him on that level. He kinda shows me that people like him can cope with harsh realities and that they can adapt and learn without losing the optimism they had before, which is encouraging. I honestly don't think the world is dark and cruel and there's no hope, and Itt doesn't either and Mizahar is pretty rough compared to my life and how I live (not that Earth is perfect in any way). So he's an imperfect ideal that really inspires me as a person, so it makes me happy when others enjoy his character too.

Writing what you're going through is going to happen whether you intend for it or not. I know people who were writing about aliens and spaghetti slinging guns and the whole thing was about this one memory they had back in their childhood that they forgot they even had. You're going to write about your life and your past whether you like it or not, so it's just a matter of whether you decide to do it consciously or not. I personally think, as you've mentioned, it's better to put as much of yourself into the story as you can, because that's where the truth of the story is. People read stories to entertain and to find truth in the world, so if you express your truth then others will connect with the piece more and find meaning since it's reflecting the realities of life. Even if the experience or the feeling is specific as hell and no one will be able to directly relate to it, there is a truth there that people are searching for. People want to connect, to find something that connects us all, to find what's real and to be validated. Stories are just one of the many ways to do that.

Not to ramble on for too long, I don't want to take the spotlight away from you. I just wanted to say that and let you know that I connected with what you are saying. It's an important aspect of writing that I think people should really think about, so I'm glad you expressed your opinions on it and shared with us some of your experience. I didn't come from a rough home life, but we're both writers and we both are drawing from our past and from ourselves to weave stories that others will be able to connect with.

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Solstice's Vent and Education Workshop

Postby Solstice on April 10th, 2019, 8:39 pm

I'm sorry it took me so long to respond to you Itt. I was a little overwhelmed by your response, and while I was trying to think of a way to phrase my answer I got bogged down and just never responded. I hope I didn't give the impression that I didn't care about your reply because I cared a great deal, especially considering I wasn't expecting anyone to respond. I really appreciate your input on the scrap, I think you added a lot to it. I like it when scraps can become collaborative, and people add their own inputs on the matter. It makes these thoughts feel like a very living, organic, growing creature.

With that said, there's something new I want to scrap about since it's been weighing heavily on my mind since yesterday.


The Burden of Chronic Pain


For those who are interested but haven't been in the loop, about six years ago I was diagnosed with a bulged disc in my neck. In layman's terms, there are these fleshy sacks that cushion between the vertebrae of the spine. One of mine had begun to bulge outwards and was pressing against the nerves in my spine which was causing me localized pain in my neck, arms, and various places in my back. I was treated for it, and it got better. But then it got worse, and for various reasons, mostly involving insurance, I never went back to that doctor. I treated it with chiropractic care, and massage. These things helped, but it never completely eliminated the issue.

It's sort of sinister how subtly chronic pain sneaks into your life and starts affecting things. A lot of the things I enjoyed the most in the world, reading, writing, and video games, gradually became harder to do. Extended sessions would cause me immense pain and terrible headaches. One year while attempting NaNo, something in my neck popped. The pain was horrible. I felt like my neck couldn't support the weight of my head, and even attempting to turn my head sent waves of pain through me, and my left arm lost strength and sensation. It took about six months of chiropractic care and acupuncture for me to get back to 'normal’... normal being functional, not in intense pain all the time, and with my arm strength back to normal. But I still felt pain all the time, just not as severe.

That event was a big scare, and I started hugely changing my behavior when it came to participating in my favorite things. I believe that if you love something enough, that it's worth fighting for, and I couldn't even consider giving up writing. That was around the time when I realized that writing on my phone caused me considerably less pain than writing in a keyboard, so even though it was slower and more cumbersome, I began writing almost entirely on my phone. I started reading ebooks on my PC instead of physical copies of books, which hurt me. And I reduced my PC gaming to almost nothing, instead focusing on occasional console gaming since controllers hurt less than a mouse and keyboard. These things didn't entirely eliminate my pain, merely mitigated it. Even now, if I spend too many days working, or at home, my pain will get worse. It's like I'm constantly in the process of this delicate balance between managing pain, and trying to live as normally as I can.

It's exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Earlier this year, I started having a second problem, this time with my lower back and legs. I was having trouble walking and standing for long periods of time. Pain would shoot up my leg when I took a step, and my hips were inflamed and extremely painful to the touch. At that point, I decided to stop screwing around and go see my old doctor. If I couldn't walk then I couldn't work, and without work I wouldn't have health insurance. He ordered an MRI on my back and my neck, and after almost a month of waiting to get back in (specialists are so damn busy) and dealing with increasing pain in the meantime, yesterday I finally got to see him and discuss the results.

He wasn't very concerned about my lower back, as apparently the damage there isn't very bad which makes sense because the pain is very new. But he was hugely concerned with my neck. He showed me the MRI scans and where the disc was pushing up against my nerves on the left side. He also gave me a copy of the diagnostic done by the radiologist. It was all fancy medical terms that were basically Greek to me, but I Googled them when I got home so I had an idea of what was going on. I have degenerative arthritis in my neck, as well as bone spurs. I also have something called spinal stenosis, which is where the nerves of my spine are narrowed and pinched. The stenosis on my left side is fairly severe which is probably why I've always had so much trouble with my left arm and the left side of my neck.

My Doctor told me that I absolutely had to have it treated. We're going to try doing a steroid injection to see if that brings the inflammation down. If it doesn't work then I'm going to need surgery. He told me this under no uncertain terms, which gave me a very good idea on how serious my condition is. Surgery is usually only done as a last resort when it comes to spinal stuff, and usually it's advised for the patient in question to try to see if they can manage as long as possible without it.

I'm thirty, guys. I've been dealing with this condition since I was twenty four. This kind of thing is usually found in people twice my age. I was expecting to need treatment, but I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it is. Surgery is a really scary prospect to face. My Mother suffers from severe chronic pain because of a botched spinal surgery. She can't even function without being on tons of strong narcotics all the time. I could have surgery done, and the problem gets worse, or it doesn't help at all. And for the first time I'm having to face the terrifying possibility that none of this is going to get any better. That this is just going to be the way I am for the rest of my life, and it's only going to get worse as I get older. It's a hell of a rude awakening.

I'm most scared by the possibility that I won't be able to write anymore. I want to write as a career. It's one of the few things I feel I'm really good at, and I'm proud of. I've already felt like I've been letting down my thread partners and the people in my Domain as my declining health makes it difficult for me to respond in a timely fashion. I do most of my writing at work before my shifts start because they have these big comfy chairs that I can write comfortably on my phone in, and I don't have anything like that at home. On my days off, I just want to rest and not go anywhere or do anything. And admittedly, writing on a phone is slow. I can't knock out multiple threads every day; I'm lucky if I can do two in a four hour period. But even resting is a double edged sword because doing the things I love that help me relax aggravates my symptoms. It's exhausting and infuriating.

I think maybe the worst part of all of this is the lack of understanding from people. I'm only thirty, but I look almost ten years younger than I am. People don't think about twenty year olds having bad backs or needing rest. I'm not going to have anyone offering me seats, and when I ask for time off or try to get people to take my shifts if I'm overwhelmed there's often this sense of aggravation from my coworkers. Unless you've been through that pain yourself, it's difficult to properly understand. It's not like breaking a bone, where it's horrible pain that eventually goes away once treated. It's always there in the back of your mind, and even if the pain isn't that bad on a particular day, you're always walking on eggshells in fear that you'll do something to make it worse. It possesses and controls you. It's sinister.

I may be overreacting to all of this, but as I said in my previous scrap, journaling is therapeutic. Maybe I'll be lucky and the steroid injection will fix all my problems, and I'll be able to go back to living normally. That's what I'm dreaming of; being able to write every day without being in fear. In the meantime, I want to thank my thread partners and the people in my Domain for being so patient with me. I wish I could respond to all of y'all the moment you get a post out. Maybe one day I'll be in a position where I'll be able to. In the meantime, I'm going to be doing my best to keep balancing between writing, work, and rest. I'm going to keep hoping for the best. The things you love are worth fighting for, and Mizahar is too wonderful to give up on.
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