A week ago last Saturday, I hurt my lower back while installing rigid insulation in the crawl space under my house. I’m not sure how I did it, but when I drug myself from under the house and stood up, I saw stars. The pain was so bad I couldn’t straighten up. I grabbed a few ibuprofen, as well as the heating pad and some rest.
The following morning, brought no relief; in fact I now walked with a limp. My wife, Christina, wisely decided it was time for me to visit urgent care. The attending physician at our local urgent care is a great guy, and explained that without an MRI a thorough diagnosis would be impossible. He believed the best course of action was pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and a little something for muscle spasms. He sent the nurse in to give me a pain reliever in shot form, wrote a few prescriptions, and I was on my way.
My back was healing up nicely until the following Wednesday, when I was walking down the hall toward the upstairs bathroom. As usual, Duke, our 180lbs Great Pyrenees, was lying in the middle of the hall. And as usual, when I told him to move, he didn’t budge. So I stepped over him, and as I did, he jumped up. I jerked, and as I did, felt the nerve in my back pinch. I came crashing to the floor, with the last words on my lips, “oh shit.”
My condition worsened as the day rolled on. To compound the situation, I had to work that night (my “regular job” is as a lab technician at a power plant, 6pm to 6am). By 8pm, I was limping pretty bad, and by 10 I was dragging my left foot behind me. Soon I resorted to rolling around the lab in a wheeled office chair. I finally swallowed my pride around 2am, and one of the plant operators helped me to my car.
The 15 minute drive home was excruciating. My lower back remained in almost continuous muscle spasms, and my left leg burned and tingled. When I got home and got out of the car, I found I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg without intense pain. I crawled on my hands and knees through the snow and icy ground to get to the front door. Once inside, I woke my wife, who helped me to bed.
Morning brought a trip to the ER. Getting to the car was an event itself, as I still lacked the ability to walk. On the drive, I endured back pain that I never thought possible, powerful enough to bring tears to my eyes. Getting out of the car was no fun either. The ordeal launched my back and leg into a fury of spasms, nearly sending me to the ground. Christina went inside the ER to ask for a pair of crutches; she returned saying an orderly would be out with a gurney. Time seemed endless as we waited, and my torment continued. Finally, my ride arrived…a wheelchair. It took two to lower me into the wheelchair, and even then the pain brought tears to my eyes.
My suffering must have bumped me to the front of the line, because within 15 minutes, I was in an exam room. In another 10, an injection of painkiller and muscle relaxer was pumped into my hip. I left the hospital still in pain and still in a wheelchair, but my agony was greatly subdued and muscled spasms reduced to a twinge.
It’s been five days since my trip to the hospital, and while I still need crutches, I can at least walk. I have an appointment with a spinal specialist soon, and hope to find the root cause of my back problems.
I told this story not to generate sympathy, but to drive home a point. Last night, I started writing a new scene for Chronicles of Aria Prime, Episode Two. In this scene, minions of the Black Enchantress capture and torture Davenport in an effort to collect information on the crash survivors. Their method of torture? First a blast with a disruptor that ruptures the disks of the lower back. Then forcing his body in all manner of contortions, causing multiple pinched nerves.
Your experiences, no matter how mild or wild, are great sources of inspiration for your story. There’s no need for you to endure massive back pain to come up with great ideas. Maybe wood turning is a hobby; plop that into your story. Ever experience racial prejudice? What about a fantasy novel where the elves are considered second class citizens? The possibilities are endless.
The old saying “write what you know” can’t be more true. By using something that you’re intimately familiar with, you can save yourself countless hours of research…time that could be better used by writing more! And speaking from personal experience, when you write on a topic that you are close to, the words literally fly from your fingertips.
But time savings are not the only advantage. Your experience leaves you with knowledge that no amount of research could prepare you for. In my case, when writing the torture scene, I described the physical pain Davenport experienced. Then I dove into the emotional turmoil. His pain and suffering were enormous, he was willing to do anything to stop the pain, but his loyalty to Colonel Nash was powerful as well. A wild ride on the emotional rollercoaster ensues, as he battles loyalty vs his own suffering.
So next time you’re struggling for ideas on the next book or next scene, dig into your personal experiences. Chances are, there’s something lurking in your past that you can use to create a great and exciting story.
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Thanks for reading!