My Infinite Jest

I’ve been wandering around the city, looking for places that inspire me to write because I find if I go to the same place too often — if I repeat the same patterns — I begin to find my mind in an infinite loop.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, one I wonder if other folks have. I don’t get the idea that they do but not living inside their heads, I can’t say for sure. If I don’t bump myself out of the rut, if I don’t consciously force myself to go other places and experience other things outside my routine, I find myself spiraling into a creative void.

I get stuck on one point. I get locked into one idea, scribbling and scribing on it until it becomes something different entirely, something new and so far removed from its origins that only I can understand the thought train.

It happens in my life as well. Patterns are important for my sanity. It’s part of a little thing called Obsessive Compulsion Personality Disorder, an issue that I’ve been dealing with (consciously) since 2001 thanks to a great therapist in San Francisco.

According to Wikipedia:

a personality disorder which involves an obsession with perfection, rules, and organization. People with OCPD may feel anxious when they perceive that things are not “right.” This can lead to routines and “rules” for ways of doing things, whether for themselves or their families.

There are loads of ways to deal with the issue but we’ve pursued a Cognitive Behavioral approach, one that focuses on goal-oriented actions (which is how I think anyway). I go through periods of success and failure dealing with it — as most of the folks who’ve spent any time with me know. It’s an ongoing, infinite process that will never stop because OCPD isn’t something that goes away.

Ironically this thing that makes me a difficult human being to be around (try figuring out my rules, it’s maddening) is what makes me a writer. (Apparently, according to my therapist, lots of writers have this affliction. Hence the movie, As Good As It Gets.)

When I get to writing, when I find myself in an infinite loop, I can spend hours — days — obsessing over my words. I can sit down and write 5,000 words in one sitting, never moving from spot. I can sit and write longer than I can actually write.

(My parents can attest to this life-long obsession. Whether it be sports — taking hundreds and thousands of groundballs on our driveway, computers — spending hundreds and thousands of hours parsing into the brains of machines and networks or anything I’ve done. It must be done thoroughly and completely before I can walk away.)

And therein lies the problem. My compulsion to write outlasts my mind’s ability to write. My mind operates on a different wavelength than my creative OCPD, needing time to recuperate and rejuvenate ideas.

So I find myself wandering, passing time, awaiting the moment when the thoughts and ideas return so that I can sit down again and write.

Those intervening times, those barren wastelands of isolation, are the times I most have to pay attention to the OCPD. Those are the times, if I let myself, that I find it easy to remove myself from reality without even trying. It. Just. Happens.

The infinite loop, repeating itself.

One last aside: the late David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite writers for many reasons. His essays are brilliant and biting. And his writing has, for me, traces of the OCPD (although I have no idea if he had it; I do know he was severely manic depressive). You can see the thought trails wander. They trail off, end and peter out with no apologies.

And I don’t think it’s an accident that his master work, Infinite Jest, has the title that is does. Of course, that’s just my take on things. I’ve got no basis in anything other than my own over-riding belief about this thing I’ve always had — this infinite loop. This belief that there is something funny about it, ironically funny, that the thing that alienates me most from the world is the thing that makes me most connected to my work.

It’s a cosmic, Infinite Jest.

11 comments
L
L

I have OCPD too but i find impossible to wright and focus since my head is constantly debating and confronting what would be the best way to make a sentence or tell the story and I keep on rereading the same paragraph. Finally I am so tired and I have thought the idea in so many different ways that I find it pointless to wright it down. I also do think D.F.W. had OCPD., you can clearly see it in his television interviews as how he is worried about not using the exact word, he even does a funny face like if there's gonna be an explosion. sorry for my english, it is not my first language.

Brad_King
Brad_King

Hey Neil:OCPD is actually different than OCD. Instead of the ticks that people with OCD have (that's an imprecise way to describe it), mine manifest themselves as rules for interactions and relations. It's quite interesting, when I step away from it; not so much when I'm in the middle of it :)For a long time, I just kinda kept it to myself and my inner-circle of friends, but for me, it's a daily reality. It seems only fair to talk about it since other folks have to deal with it. (And, you know, I don't really feel badly about having to deal with it.)Glad it was helpful to read :) We all certainly have our stuff so we may as well talk about it.

Neil
Neil

Hey Brad, this is Jenny’s husband Neil.I came across your post thru Jenny's twitter account and decided to read. I too have OCD, but it manifests itself a little different from yours. I feel your frustration about the success and failures of working on OCD yourself with the Cognitive Behavioral approach. I'm trying without the "drugs", but I also have an awesome therapist helping me along too. Your spot on when talking about the never ending loop of ups and downs when dealing with this OCD crap. I feel your pain. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing a very personal affliction that you’re dealing with and it lets me know I'm not alone in dealing with my own demons.Thanks,Neil

JoeKikta
JoeKikta

Brad,You should feel honored to be compared to MJ!Life is definitely about dealing with insanity: yours, everyone else's and the random insane events that result!

Brad_King
Brad_King

Hey Joe:I'll act as if I wasn't just compared to Michael Jackson ;)I'm not sure that it doesn't consume my personal life - or my work life - or the other parts of my life. All I do know is that I feel more normal knowing about than I did before I knew about it.In the end, all any of us can really do is try to manage our own insanity. Some days it's easier than others. Some days its harder. But as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the next and try to pay attention, it seems there's always another day to try.

JoeKikta
JoeKikta

I find it interesting that many creative types have "issues" of one sort or another (see Michael Jackson). Whether it's psychological disorders that help drive someone's creative thought process or tough life experiences that generate a great story, or both, it seems to happen a lot. I'm glad that you and others have actually been able to turn these things into something positive for themselves. I'm also glad that you seem to be getting the help you need in dealing with it and not letting it consume your personal life in the process. There is the dangerous road which many have also gone down before.

Brad_King
Brad_King

Hey Neil:OCPD is actually different than OCD. Instead of the ticks that people with OCD have (that's an imprecise way to describe it), mine manifest themselves as rules for interactions and relations. It's quite interesting, when I step away from it; not so much when I'm in the middle of it :)For a long time, I just kinda kept it to myself and my inner-circle of friends, but for me, it's a daily reality. It seems only fair to talk about it since other folks have to deal with it. (And, you know, I don't really feel badly about having to deal with it.)Glad it was helpful to read :) We all certainly have our stuff so we may as well talk about it.

Neil
Neil

Hey Brad, this is Jenny’s husband Neil.I came across your post thru Jenny's twitter account and decided to read. I too have OCD, but it manifests itself a little different from yours. I feel your frustration about the success and failures of working on OCD yourself with the Cognitive Behavioral approach. I'm trying without the "drugs", but I also have an awesome therapist helping me along too. Your spot on when talking about the never ending loop of ups and downs when dealing with this OCD crap. I feel your pain. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing a very personal affliction that you’re dealing with and it lets me know I'm not alone in dealing with my own demons.Thanks,Neil

JoeKikta
JoeKikta

Brad,You should feel honored to be compared to MJ!Life is definitely about dealing with insanity: yours, everyone else's and the random insane events that result!

Brad_King
Brad_King

Hey Joe:I'll act as if I wasn't just compared to Michael Jackson ;)I'm not sure that it doesn't consume my personal life - or my work life - or the other parts of my life. All I do know is that I feel more normal knowing about than I did before I knew about it.In the end, all any of us can really do is try to manage our own insanity. Some days it's easier than others. Some days its harder. But as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the next and try to pay attention, it seems there's always another day to try.

JoeKikta
JoeKikta

I find it interesting that many creative types have "issues" of one sort or another (see Michael Jackson). Whether it's psychological disorders that help drive someone's creative thought process or tough life experiences that generate a great story, or both, it seems to happen a lot. I'm glad that you and others have actually been able to turn these things into something positive for themselves. I'm also glad that you seem to be getting the help you need in dealing with it and not letting it consume your personal life in the process. There is the dangerous road which many have also gone down before.

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  1. […] mind works in an odd way, one that I’ve written about here and there before. It’s not anything crippling or debilitating, but it’s certainly a thing. The world in my head […]