So the semester is done, I am back to my Happy Place of Summertime Happiness, and all is well. Of course, this also means that I am committed to getting back to the Writing Place of Summertime Writing, which is, in a word, exhausting. ...
So the semester is done, I am back to my Happy Place of Summertime Happiness, and all is well. Of course, this also means that I am committed to getting back to the Writing Place of Summertime Writing, which is, in a word, exhausting. And scary. And maybe not quite so simple as “oh, I’ve got all this time! Of course I shall meet my goals!”
But so I had an epiphany in the shower today. (See title of post.) There are many things about myself as a writer, and as a person who is able to motivate herself to write, that are great. I am content to draft and to revise. I outline. I am good about editing to others’ specifications in order to get a piece out for publication. In other words, I’m not especially a perfectionist, and I’m pretty content to put the “good” (or “good enough”) before the “perfect” (as if such a thing exists!). I don’t labor over sentences, nor do I hold tight to sentences, or paragraphs, or even whole pieces of writing, as if they are brilliant jewels to be honored and cherished.
But what I discovered this morning, mid-shampoo, was that in spite of all of these admirable writer-qualities, I do have a problem, and it’s a problem that’s really reared its ugly head since the advent of The Dude. The problem is that while I’m very good at all of the above, I’m not very good at keeping going even in the midst of… complications.
Here is what I do. I come up with a plan for writing, a schedule for accomplishing things. (This is good.) I make deadlines for myself, and then I make a set of “real” deadlines as a back-up. (This is also good.) But what I also do is I try to hold myself to working from beginning to end – ish. It’s not that I always work in a totally linear way, I don’t, but whatever the “big chunk” is – a conference paper, a chapter, an article – well, I can’t really move on from it to another piece, or into revision of it, unless I feel like it has a beginning, middle, and an end. Or I don’t. So the result is this, it seems: I am that person who is constantly revising her schedule when shit doesn’t get done. And then I feel overwhelmed by the revised schedule and then I don’t write at all. And then I have to revise the schedule again. This hasn’t happened to me for some time, but it is the writer that I am.
Long story short: I had a schedule for getting a chapter of the book done by April (this was a third or fourth round revised schedule, let’s note). That didn’t happen. So rather than move on to the next thing on the “Master Schedule,” I was all, “well, I can’t do anything until I get that done! I’ll just make an even stricter schedule for myself in order to do things in a linear-ish way!” Needless to say, I just didn’t make any progress for the past couple of months. (And then, as I confessed to you all, I directly blamed this on The Dude, though that wasn’t fair.)
If we put this in Freshmen Comp terms, I am the student who can’t write the paper because she didn’t already write the introduction. And it’s worth noting, I was that Freshmen Comp student, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m in this predicament right now.
Except I am surprised. Because historically, when I’ve run into this problem since those long ago days of Freshmen Comp, I’ve assumed the problem wasn’t “me” but rather that it was whatever the complication was.
So, for example, once upon a time, during the one time in my life when I have described myself as having writer’s block, while I was writing my dissertation, I really thought it was “writer’s block” – that I was “blocked” by some mystical force, and that suddenly the “block” lifted by an equally