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Day One – SFSS Challenge

November 1, 2017

On November 1st last year I started a six week project to see if I could get myself writing something for a minimum of fifteen minutes every day. The project was prompted by my doctor, who’d just put me back on medication for chronic depression. He told me it takes six weeks to properly assimilate a change in your life. I hadn’t been writing anything other than a few tedious lines in my Moleskine notebook with my Waterman pen (channelling Ava Lee there, for those who get it) on a fairly regular basis. So I started that project – the Black Dog Diary – and I did write – about anything and everything – for forty-two days.

Did it getting me writing again? Well, yes and no. As anyone who read my World Mental Health Day post will know, in the spring I did actually start a new novel and for a while it was going remarkably well. Then it fizzled out as almost everything I’ve tackled in the past few years has. (The two remarkable exceptions being my two one-act plays.)

But this particular challenge isn’t about that.

A few months ago I bought a tablet. I was prompted to do so because I thought it would help motivate me to go to the gym. Motivation over the winter months had been fairly easy. I took my Mp3 player with me and listened to An Unhelpful Complication for half an hour every day on the treadmill. Nice piece of multi-tasking: exercise and learning lines. But after the play was over, what was I supposed to listen to? Music? Yeah, okay, but it wasn’t really distracting enough. French lessons? Ditto. But what about audio books or electronic books or podcasts? Now that sounded promising. So I bought the tablet. It didn’t really get me to the gym. By this time it was summer and there was lots to do outside during the day. So, no books on the treadmill.

Instead, what the tablet turned into was a handy, portable stupid fucking spider solitaire facilitator. No longer tied to the laptop, I could now play on the sofa, on the deck, in bed. Twice last month I stayed in bed until after four in the afternoon (no breakfast, no lunch) playing the stupid game. On two or three other occasions I sat up on the sofa until four in the morning playing the stupid game. On one occasion I stayed up all night. Jesus Fucking Christ.

Time was, not that long ago, when I could make a vow in my Moleskine notebook in the morning: I will not play SFSS today. It worked, more or less. Some days I cheated, played Hearts or backgammon instead, but at least I didn’t have one game of spider solitaire. That went out the window in the summer. The vow suddenly meant nothing so I stopped making the vow.

When I told my doctor at my last check up about my recent marathons, he told me not to beat myself up. As long as I am functioning (eating, sleeping, bathing) we weren’t at a crisis point. Says him. Felt like a crisis to me. So I went back to see the mental health nurse for the first time in a while, her full title being Mental Health Nurse and Addiction Counsellor. ’Cos, let’s face it, I am an addict. She did not question that fact, asking instead if, like an alcoholic, my goal was one or two glasses of wine a week or complete abstinence. Abstinence, I said without hesitation.

That was a couple of weeks ago.

Today is a good day to start this project.

Yesterday, I got up, had breakfast, did my French homework, went to the gym (lines to learn for this year’s panto), came home, made a fruit cake, did some work on the contract in which I am currently employed, had dinner, went to rehearsal, came home, watched a bit of telly, went to bed, read for a while, went to sleep. What’s missing in this scenario? Well spotted. I did not play a single bloody game of stupid fucking spider solitaire – or any other game. First time in months.

So, here’s the deal. I am going to try to go forty-two days, six weeks without playing the stupid bloody game. I am going to check in every day to report on my progress and write something (like the Black Dog Diary) for at least fifteen minutes.

Wish me luck.

Time for breakfast and the gym.

See you tomorrow.

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