What I Learned in Physical Therapy

by Melissa Schroeder
I have been offline and trying to catch up from what I call "The Lost Month." I started having upper back pain in mid March and it took four ER visits, two doctor visits, various narcotic drugs to get my diagnosis: Degenerative Disc Disease or DDD. Now, they are sort of being wishy washy on it, but that is basically what I have. But, the pain was a muscle spasm and I have to have physical therapy for it.

So, last week, I had a different physical therapist, Michael. At first, I was taken in by his cute smile and nice personality...and well, he is a cutie over all. Then, I learned the truth: he is a masochist. It is odd that one would be employed so openly, especially one who hates women. He made me work harder than I have been, and basically kicked my ass. It would not have been as bad if it hadn't been hot as hell and I did not end up spending all day at the clinic, even coming back for a prescription, and oh, yeah, got called middle aged for the first time. But, he made me work harder and I bitched, a lot, about it(I know surprising). I ended up with a horrendous muscle spasm because I normally sit with ice on my back the days of PT, but I couldn't because of my afternoon appt and having to run home, then back up to the clinic for my drugs.

Later, way later that week, while stuck in Atlanta (and why can't all major airports have free wifi like DIA?) praying I would make it back home before midnight, I started thinking about it again. Maybe because of the major muscle spasm and I associate pain with Michael. Okay, I'm joking. Maybe. Kind of.
This particular lesson from Michael reminded me that nothing comes easy. If I want my back to get better, to fight the spasm that kept me away from work for a month, I have to push myself. It is going to get worse before it gets better. Some days I will not be able to sit in front of the computer, I just have to learn that. And some days, PT is going to kick my ass. And it should.
It got me to thinking about my career, what I am working on now, and what I am striving for. I think it is easy once you get published to get complacent. It is easier than trying to look at your work and pick out particular things you need to work on. Do I need more characterization, or more plot? Am I making sure that I push myself to be a better writer every time I sit down in front of the computer? Was I trying to step out of the comfortable box I had put myself into with smaller publishers?
Don't get me wrong, I love epublishing and I will always write for them. I am a digital reader, buying all my books in that format now. But, I also want to do different things, more mainstream. And to do that I have to take a chance. That is scary to the Cappy in me. I tend to plan for everything, from what I will be doing tomorrow to a family trip next Apri l(yes, I have already started to plan it). So, to step out there again, and send things to New York publishers, has been scary--even with my super agent behind me. I have had some bumpy times since I tried it again, some very disappointing situations, but I realized that for the first time in a few years, I am getting more ideas than I can write.
I think my hospitalization, along with the rest of 2007 that included my daughter in the hospital over Christmas and putting my 15 yr old dog to sleep, sucked out my creativity. There were a couple of other factors that are kind of private and I don't want to go into them. Toxic relationships are never good for creativity. But adding up the hospital stays and the stress of a possible deployment for my husband during this entire mess, I just found myself unable to really work on anything new, especially for NY.
I am proud of the work I have done in epublishing. My recent release, Her Mother's Killer, is actually a stepping out of the box thing for me. Suspense isn't something I am really comfortable with, but I enjoyed this book and it has made me think even more about pushing myself more. And with that, I have to decide to know where I need improvement.

It isn't easy to look at your own writing and honestly ask yourself what you are missing. I know a big one for me is plot. Until about a year ago, I was a pantzer, someone who wrote by the seat of her pants. Of course, that would last only so long because I'm a Cappy and we plan everything.Throw in the military brat upbringing...well, you get the idea. I have a plan for everything. But I realized that my panic halfway through a book is because I wasn't planning the books. I know I have other problems, other things to work on, and one thing is for sure: until the day I stop writing, I will never stop improving my writing. I am going to push harder at improvement.
A couple weeks ago, someone asked me if I was afraid of failing or succeeding. That is a good question, and I probably have a healthy fear of both. But, until I take a chance, endure some pain by improving my writing, I won't be able to push ahead and make myself a better writer. If I don't do that, I won't be able to write the things I want to, for major pubs and small press. It was when I started working on Black Diamond, my first Cursed Clan book, that I started looking at those problems I have. I was paralized to find that it wasn't going to get picked up right away. I thought it was some of my best writing, but NY wasn't biting on it. But, this lesson reminded me that I have to keep pushing ahead and write the next book, the next one after that, and so on. It isn't easy. But, in the end, I will be a better writer, and that is more important than being comfortable.
And, folks, Michael was a little afraid of what I would write about him, lol. But see, you helped remind me what is important about pushing for improvement. Working harder has the results I need even if I cannot see them at that moment.

PS: I am on a mission to save another show I love. Castle has yet to get renewed so if you twitter, be sure to join nathan fillion and save castle. Oh, and join me on twitter.

Melissa Schroeder is the author of close to 30 short stories, novellas and novels in less than five years. She writes in just about every subgenre known to romance because it fits in with her ADD. Her latest work, Her Mother's Killer has been earning rave reviews. Her next two releases involve a time traveling second century Celtic warrior, Turning Paige, and an older woman with two younger men in her first full menage, Conquering India. She can be reached at her website, blog, or hanging out with her fellow Wicked Writers.


  1. I am sorry to read about your back, Mel. And your little sadistic PT. But truly, he's just trying to make you better eh? (Although please tell me you're joking about him hating women. LOL)

  2. From my experience, I can agree with you about PT. The only time it was "fun" was the time I was getting these absolutely beautiful back massages because of muscle problems related to playing viola. Unfortunately, that only lasted about a month. I've been achy ever since!

    But, yeah. It does push you, it does make you want to do better in all of your life. And that makes it worth every second of agony, and every second of pain endured in the process.

    Go with it!!



  3. Mel -
    What a year you've had. I know you will prevail and do everything you want in and out of publishing.
    I hate to admit Michael is right, worse than better...but you're on the upside now. Knowing is half the battle.
    P.S - I will be saving Castle - I love that show
    Laurie K

  4. What a beautiful, candid and from the heart post, dear Melissa. Thank you so much for sharing your pain, your successes and well, your life with us.

    I loved reading that your line about toxic relationships being bad for creativity. I have been blessed with amazingly supportive friends and family, but have struggled with a couple of people who simply refuse to feel happy for what I have achieved. Needless to say, recently they have been given the boot...

    Also, thanks for sharing your back pain and PT agony. I cannot even imagine what you must be going through, but it's amazing that your writing has balanced you out -- considering there are days you can't even sit at your computer. You are doing the right thing in taking care of yourself, I know a few writers who simply lived with the pain until they could hardly move... We are not going to be going that way! Kudos, for you, your courage and your wonderful writing!

  5. Isn't being a masochist part of the job description? I'm pretty sure it is plus is goes with that saying no pain no gain.

    I think knowing that you need to develop and push through with your writing will be the most helpful. You've identified what you need at the moment. As long as you can reevaluate the situation and adapt I think you'll do great.

  6. So sorry to hear about your awful year, Melissa. I can relate! For me, the sheer nightmare quality of real life helped me delve deeper into writing. I hope something positive comes of it for you too.
    But wow - 30 stories in less than five years is great. Keep at it.

  7. Melissa,

    Sorry to hear about your back and the therapy!! Wow, that middle age comment should have earned him a quick dosing with your water bottle. But, all that said, it's very inspirational to hear about your writing and how you try and improve it. It's hard to do that and juggle all that life has to throw at you. Your lastest book, Her Mother's Killer, was wonderful! Take care of yourself, rest and kick that boys butt!!!

    best wishes,
    billi jean

  8. I hope your back is settling down these days. Frustrating when every movement is connected to that darn spine... Especially writing!

  9. Dear Melissa - hope you're doing better- thanks for your heartfelt honesty. When we experience bad stuff - it's tough to get back on track but you're doing it! And your commitment and tenacity to your craft is inspiring! ;) take care!

  10. I too went through PT for back issues. An unexpected closure of my PT's office, sent me on to a new therapist, which turned out to be quite a blessing. This woman knows the body like Clapton knows a guitar. She rearranged me like a blob of clay then taught me exercises to keep me on track. I feel better than I have for years, although I do curse the exercises when time is at a premium!

    You made some good points about pushing ourselves every time. It's so easy to just skim through life but excellence requires real effort. Thanks for this!


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