Category Archives: A (Good) Day’s Work

Make Good Behaviour Easy

At the start of 2018, I made a number of resolutions/goals, which met with mixed success (more on that soon, I hope). But I’ve realized that I never wrote about what turned out to be my most successful resolution: to stop buying tea (or hot chocolate, etc., I’m not a coffee drinker) if it would come in a disposable cup.

I can’t now remember what prompted me to make the resolution; I certainly wasn’t in a daily habit of purchasing hot beverages, but I must have been buying them frequently enough for me to get fed up with the waste.

What made (I think) this resolution such a success was that it didn’t actually forbid the problematic behaviour. There was nothing stopping me from buying tea or hot chocolate- I just had to remember to bring my travel mug with me. And if I didn’t want to spend the money, I could consciously choose not to bring the mug with me.

It was incredibly effective.

The year wasn’t perfect, but I think I can say with confidence that I bought a hot beverage in a container that would have to be put in the garbage once it was empty less than five times. Definitely less than ten. And almost every occasion was when someone else was doing the buying and I forgot to say ‘no’ when asked if I’d like something.

Even on a memorable Wednesday late last semester, when I was tired and ill and freezing cold, when I wanted some tea so badly, I didn’t buy it. I didn’t have my mug with me, and by then the habit was firmly entrenched.

So this year I’ve decided to up the ante. I developed a very bad habit of buying my lunch last semester, which had ballooned by the end of the semester into buying lunch nearly every workday, plus frequent snacks. Last semester was incredibly chaotic, but this was a ball I didn’t need to be dropping in such spectacular fashion.

I knew an outright ban on buying food was unlikely to work, because I don’t respond well to prohibitions. Instead, I expanded the resolution from last year.

In 2019, my goal is to be litter-free when I’m at work.

It’s not that I can’t buy food…I just have to work out the logistics to make sure I’m not using any of the disposable packaging that would normally come with it. If I want to buy a burrito bowl when I’m on campus (a burrito bowl which I was in the habit of buying at least once a week, if not more often, last semester), I have to bring my own bowl and cutlery with me (I have yet to determine whether the staff will be happy to accommodate my BYOB approach).

My impetus for this change is largely financial. I’ve been crunching our budget numbers to find areas where we can cut back and ‘food and dining’ is clearly the low-hanging fruit. When I ran the numbers comparing our average monthly spend on ‘groceries’ versus ‘food and dining’ (which includes groceries, but also alcohol, restaurants and coffee shops, and the money Q. and I spend on food while at work (which have their own categories in my system)), I found that we were spending, on average, close to $500 a month on ‘food and dining’ that couldn’t be classified as actual groceries.

Yikes.

There are obvious environmental benefits to my decision and likely health ones as well (I gained weight last semester and I’m certain my reliance on purchased food played a role), but my strong aversion to wasting money is the key. The advantage to the financial aspect is it’s so easy to track my progress. I know what the average monthly spend on ‘Turia’s Snacks’ in 2018 was, and I’m looking forward to seeing that number plummet in 2019.

I’m allowing myself one Lara bar wrapper a day (I buy them in bulk when they’re on sale for less than $1 each, and I’ve come to rely on them for a late afternoon snack) and I’m not expecting perfection on the weekend if I’m out with my family. But my hope is that changing how I approach food for myself will also change the larger patterns in our household. I took the kids on two major expeditions in the second week of the holidays and both days I built enough time into our schedule to allow me to pack a lunch and snacks for the three of us. Since we have memberships at both locations, the total cost of our days out was minimal: $6 in public transit fares for myself in one case (the kids are free) and $8 for parking in the other.

There are costs that comes with this change, of course. There was an initial financial outlay to purchase an appropriate lunch container. Q. and the kids picked out a green yumbox for me as a Christmas present. I don’t think it’s what I would have picked for myself, but I’m making it work along with the tupperware containers and reusable sandwich and snack bags we already had in the house. I still need to buy travel cutlery. Making it extremely difficult for me to purchase food while at work increases my emotional labour around food. I have to plan ahead and make sure appropriate lunch things are on the menu and purchased at the grocery store. It also increases the time I spend on food. I have to plan ahead and make my lunch and pack my snacks. But these are small costs that will become invisible as I settle into the new habit, and the time I spend making my lunch in the evenings is probably cancelled out by the time I save not standing in line the next day.

It’s been less than two weeks under the new system, so it’s early days yet, but I’ve successfully navigated two of our Terrible Tuesdays (where I’m out of the house for 15 hours) without buying food. It helps that it’s winter so I can safely leave my dinner in the trunk of my car until I’m ready for it. I’ve definitely noticed the impulse to buy food, especially when I’m bored or triggered by being near the places where I habitually purchased food last semester. But, thus far, I’ve been able to resist, and I know those impulses will weaken and vanish as I rewrite the patterns of my behaviour.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Food, Money Matters

New Year, fresh start?

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, since I’ve always felt that my new year actually starts in September. But I miss this space, and I miss making time to write about all the random parts of my life, so I thought I’d try to fool myself into thinking that starting to write again now was a most logical decision.

We’ll see how it goes.

I finished a five-year journal at the end of 2018 (I use this one and and love it). When I looked back at the start, before I boxed it up and tucked it away and opened the new one, I saw that my goal word for 2018 had been ‘less’. I wanted less. Of everything. Less stress. Less pressure. Less chaos.

Ha.

It’s not that 2018 was a terrible year (unlike 2016 which, birth of P. not withstanding, really was). It’s just that, as I discovered, working full-time when your partner is also working full-time and having two little kids isn’t conducive to ‘less’ in any of the ways I was hoping for.

2018 was when I dropped the balls, over and over and over again. Sometimes little balls, sometimes big ones. I learned (the hard way) that if I didn’t write down EVERY.SINGLE.DEADLINE in my online calendar, I’d forget important things, even if I’d just been thinking about them the week before.

2018 was when I felt like I could never quite catch my breath, could never quite catch up, could never quite get to everything I really needed to.

Q. and I felt like our household was on a high spin cycle for most of the entire year.

I’m not expecting the first half of 2019 to be much better. I’m still on the postdoc, which means I’m still expected to be working full-time hours. Things are improving slowly on the domestic front because as P. gets older she’s happier to spend forty minutes playing by herself (usually an elaborate game involving dolls and Playmobil people), which means I can cook dinner without a screaming toddler attached to my leg,which means that Q. isn’t trying to cook all the dinners on the weekend and freeze them, which means our weekends gain some breathing room.

Still, our weeks remain action-packed, including a truly ludicrous arrangement on Tuesdays this semester that sees me leaving the house at 6:45 a.m. and only getting home again at 9:30 p.m. after teaching two courses at two different universities in two different cities. I don’t see the kids on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, Q. has just enough time in the mornings to drop E. at school and P. at nursery school and still get to the university in time to teach for four and a half hours straight.

We call them Terrible Tuesdays. E. made a countdown calendar with a huge sad face and we put happy face stickers on the numbers every time we finish another one.

Our schedules for the rest of the week are more sensible, but there’s no getting around the fact that at this point in our lives, having the first parent get home at 5:30 on workdays is not working well for our family. I’m looking forward to the second half of the year when the postdoc will be over and Q. will be on sabbatical and we will have some breathing room to sit and think and determine what comes next.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep trying to stay afloat. I made nachos for dinner last night, because they are fast and easy and, as it turns out, E. will devour all the ingredients that he would usually refuse to eat if I put them in a chilli (including spring onions, red peppers, tomatoes, and six kinds of beans). Turns out if you cut out the rice and add tortilla chips and a whole lot of cheese instead, it becomes “one of my favourite dinners ever”. Neither Q. nor I really believes that nachos are an appropriate food for dinner, but whatever. He didn’t have to cook and the kids ate it. In this current phase of our lives, we call that a win.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Daily Life, Food, Life after the PhD

Accountability: January and February 2018

Since it’s now March (and how did that happen?), I thought I’d take a minute to assess how I’m doing with my various goals for 2018.

1. Conquer my lizard brain.

Hard to tell. E. has been on a pretty even keel these last two months, which has meant I haven’t been as challenged in my parenting. So I’m not sure whether I’ve made much progress. I am definitely working hard at keeping my cool during the hour between when I get home to relieve the nanny and when we eat dinner, which is total chaos every time, even with Q. prepping most dinners ahead of time. Both kids want all of my attention and it starts the second I walk in the door. It can get very overwhelming, but I’m trying to embrace it.

I think I’m doing ok, but I need a rough patch from E. to know that I’m actually making progress on breaking my cycle of responding.

2. Start getting ready for bed at 9:30 p.m.

Mixed results here. The good: Q. and I are getting ready for bed earlier and we usually manage to be in bed with the lights off by shortly after 10 p.m., which is a noticeable improvement over what was happening in December, and I always plug in my devices. I’ve also stopped hanging out on my phone right up until I go to bed, which has made it easier to fall asleep. The bad: I have failed to start making E.’s lunch (or snacks if he has a hot lunch at school) or my lunch ahead of time, and my desk is still in a constant state of chaos. The mixed: I am sometimes flossing, but not always (I was doing better in January), and I’m not 100% there with the litter box yet.

Definite progress, but still room for improvement.

3. Stop taking the phone to the bathroom.

Total fail. Still reading blogs in the bathroom.

4. Make the switch to manual and RAW on my camera.

Mixed success. Still not shooting in RAW and still not practicing enough. I have been making an effort to shoot more on Manual, but I get easily frustrated if I’m trying to shoot pictures of my kids and the light keeps changing. The course is interesting (although I’ve failed to share my homework with anyone). I think I need to start carrying my big camera with me when I go to work and take some time at lunch to take pictures (preferably things that don’t move so I can fiddle with the dials to my heart’s content.)

I did take a good photo of my cat, which wouldn’t have been possible on any mode but Manual because of the lighting (she was sitting in a sunbeam in my room). It’s not perfect- it needed a slightly smaller aperture to make sure both eyes were in focus- but then I would have had to change my shutter speed yet again and the cat had only so much patience. So there’s that (this is SOOC):

5. Read 75 books.

Exceeding expectations. I read 21 books in the first two months of this year, so I’m well up on where I would need to be to meet my goal. The reading frenzy was partly sparked by some interesting holds coming in, partly due to a conscious decision to read at night more often, and partly resulting from a ‘ready to read’ mind-set. I sometimes have periods where I don’t feel as much like reading, but during these past two months it was easy to make reading a priority.

I read some wonderful books and am hoping to write blog posts about a couple of them soon(ish).

6. Go on two dates a month with Q.

I forgot this was one of my goals. TERRIBLE!

We did get out for our monthly date lunch for both January and February, and we did go out for dinner in January, but I don’t think we managed a second date in February. I did go up to the main campus yesterday to surprise Q. (he was giving a brief presentation) and we had hot drinks and brownies afterwards, but I’m hoping I can still do better for March.

I did organize for Q. and I to have a night away in the summer as a wedding anniversary surprise (I’m taking him to one of the nearby theatre festivals). I booked the tickets and the accommodation and coordinated with my mother (who has very kindly agreed to look after the small fry), so I feel like I did make some forward progress with this.

Q. and I have also really enjoyed watching detectorists (gentle English village comedy- one of our favourite things) on Netflix this past month, and we’re currently watching Broadchurch (which feels like a Doctor Who reunion and is well done, if containing very upsetting subject matter). I think we’ve agreed that House of Cards was too stressful (we’re mired in the second season).

7. Work Stuff

At the time I wrote my goals post I didn’t yet know what I wanted to say about work, but later in January I figured out that I needed to edit 15 pages of the book manuscript a week in order to finish the editing process by the middle of June (which is when I’ve booked Q. to read it). I’ve been storming along with that goal- I almost immediately pushed it up to 20 pages to buy myself some more time at the end for more substantial reading/thinking/writing revisions, and some weeks I’ve managed to do even more than that. I’ve finished this round of edits on the first four chapters now, and I’ve been pretty consistently trimming the manuscript down by just over 20 percent (with the exception of the fourth chapter, which is a strong one and didn’t have as much fat to trim).

I’ve taken the view that any substantial changes (i.e., ones that require me to go and do a significant amount of further research) can be left at this stage to a later date (hence my shift to 20 pages per week). What I most needed was to get up a head of steam with the book and break the paralyzing voice of my inner critic. I feel I’m making real progress with this- I no longer feel like I’m going to throw up when I start work on it each week. I have a new file where I list the changes that still need to be done to the manuscript and I’ll start tackling those once I’ve finished this first round. I still tend towards panic, but I’m getting much better at repeating to myself ‘You don’t need to edit the entire book today, you only need to edit these seven pages’ until I calm down and can focus.

The deep work of editing usually takes me until lunch, if lunch starts late (I often don’t eat until 1:30 as I don’t like to break my concentration). I haven’t yet found a good way of using the couple of hours I have left in the afternoon once I’ve had lunch if I don’t have pressing work for my other big project (the edited volume I’m working on with Q.). I need to come prepared with something manageable to read (journal articles, maybe), as I don’t have the mental bandwidth left at that point to do more deep work. Another option would be to do teaching prep and/or marking to try to free up some of Tuesday morning to allow for some deep work on that day. So my work goal for March/April, along with finishing the first round of editing on the book, is to figure out how best to use the rest of my day.

My other goal for March/April is to go buy new running shoes as I’ve started the Couch25K program twice now and both times have had to stop when I hit the continuous running weeks. I have a dodgy ankle, a leftover from an injury when I was in elementary school, and it niggles at me. I’m hoping new shoes will solve the problem.

How are your 2018 goals coming along?

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Books, Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD

Number Crunching

Ways to think about my book revisions:

1. 182, 871 words. Response: AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. 387 pages. Response: see #1.

3. 22 weeks  (if I am to meet my, admittedly self-imposed, deadline of giving the manuscript to Q. by the middle of June so that he can return it to me by the end of June and I can then resubmit to the press by the end of July). Response: see #1, again.

4. 4,500 words (the number of words that have to be added to the new draft every week in order for me to reach 99,000 by the end of the twenty-second week. 100,000 words would be a very respectable book, and my book in its current state is much too long.). Response: Totally manageable.

5. 15 pages (the number of pages from the first draft I have to edit and place [or discard] in the new draft each week to finish the book by the end of the twenty-second week [this figure ignores the bibliography and the front matter, which is why it adds up to 330 pages rather than 387, in case you did the math]). Response: Totally manageable.

4 and 5 are my weekly targets from now on.

It’s all about how the work is presented.

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Progress, Not Perfection

I have been having a difficult time getting back into a good rhythm with my research. Too much time off over the holidays has meant I’ve lost my momentum and my Inner Critic is back up to “shouting so loudly she’s hurting my ears” rather than the “nasty whispers under her breath” I’d beaten her down to by the end of last semester.

I learned last fall that the absolute, most critical key to successful academic writing (for me at least) was consistency. The more I worked on something, the easier it became to keep working on it. My weekly schedule makes this a challenge. Mondays I’m at home with P., and Tuesday nights I teach. This has meant that the work time available on Tuesdays (the morning and the early afternoon), more often than not, has been eaten up by class preparation and marking. I’m hoping this will improve this semester because I’m now into the section of the course that I’ve taught once before, so I already have PowerPoint slides and relevant assessment that can be reused.

The reality is that four days away from my research is too long. Every Wednesday I’d have the same inner battle with myself as I walked to the library:

Inner Critic: “I don’t know why you even bother. It’s never going to get published. No one wants to read your crap.”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’d be so much easier to do something else. So much more fun too. Why not just read your novel? Or go for a long walk? Or answer emails? Or write a blog post? Or we could go eat some cake. Ooh, I love cake. You love cake too! You’ll feel better about yourself then!”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’s so pointless. You’re so pointless. You’re such a fraud. If you actually send this to a publisher everyone will know you’re such a fraud.”
Turia: “SHUT. UP. Just sit down at the desk, Turia.”
*Some time is wasted by going to the washroom, setting up the desk, filling up the water bottle, writing a few emails, checking the phone, etc.*
Inner Critic: “You’re never going to be able to do this, you know.”
Turia: “SHUT! UP! Open the computer, Turia. Open the file. Start writing. Write for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes. You can do fifteen minutes.”
*Fifteen minutes pass.*
Turia:
“Ok. This is going well. These are interesting ideas. You can do it, T. Keep writing.”
Inner Critic: “I’ll be back, you know.”

And she is back, every morning. She’s easier to silence on Thursday and easier again on Friday because by then I’ve picked up some momentum and I can remember what I most wanted to start with when I’d finished the day before. But she never, ever, truly goes away, and by the following Wednesday she’s back out in force.

I described this entire process to my friends in my writing accountability group at our meeting in December and they were both horrified. “That sounds terrible!” one of them said.

It is terrible. I guess I’m just so used to it it doesn’t even seem strange to me anymore. I’ve never written anything research-related without also engaging in a fierce internal war.

My work goal for 2018 is to try to break this cycle. The fundamental problem is that I’m a perfectionist with a very fixed mindset. I associate editing with failure- I didn’t get it right the first time. I confuse my work with myself, and feel that a rejection of my work would pass judgment on myself as a person. This leaves me paralyzed with fear whenever I think about submitting my work somewhere.

It’s a really unhealthy way to live, and I don’t want to model it for my children.

E. and I talk all the time about how “practice makes progress” and how we have to be willing to try and make mistakes in order to improve. When he’s worried about his dictée words, and is wailing about how he will “never get anything right” and how he will “make a million mistakes on the dictée”, I point to how much he’s improved every time he practices.

I knew it was sinking in when I heard our nanny say to E. “practice makes perfect” one day and he, rather irritably, corrected her that it was actually “practice makes progress because most things aren’t perfect”.

It needs to sink in for me too.

Walking to the library this morning, with my Inner Critic shrieking in my head, I resolved to make “progress, not perfection” my mantra for my work this year. And by the time I’d reached my second-favourite desk (annoyingly someone had already claimed my favourite desk), I’d realized that it applied to far more than just my writing.

It applied when it came to my photographs.

It applied when it came to my efforts to control my lizard brain when I’m frustrated with my kids.

It applied to anywhere in my life where I felt unsatisfied and wanted to make a change.

When you practice, you see, you have to make the time for something. You have to engage in it. And maybe the progress you make is incremental. Maybe it’s tiny, almost unnoticeable at first. Maybe baby steps even seem like big steps at first. But eventually, if you give it enough time, you will be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come.

I wrote on here that I hadn’t been able to come up with a good word to represent my goals for 2018.

It turns out I needed three words, not one.

Progress, not perfection.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, Choose Happiness, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

This week

Some thoughts on my work in December

  • It is exam season here, which means that Q. is refusing to have library dates with me (even though we’re now both free of teaching so we could work together) because if he goes to his office he can work in blissful silence as opposed to the “silence” of many undergraduates “studying” with their closest friends.
  • The library where I work in the mornings most days is still very quiet. The big library is not. I’ve had to shush people on a daily basis (and I am sitting in the SILENT ZONE where no talking of any kind, ever, is permitted, so I have no problem with shushing). The main irritation with exam season for me is that someone else gets the little room I like to think of as my own because they all start studying before 9:30, even on Fridays, and that’s the earliest I can get to a desk.
  • I can accept this, with some bad grace, if the people who take ‘my’ room use it wisely. Today it is occupied by a pair of love-struck undergraduates. They have been cuddling and whispering throughout the morning (I am far enough away not to hear them, but I notice this when I walk past), and are currently both asleep with their heads on the desk.
  • I am looking forward to around the third week of January when all the good intentions for the new semester have worn off and exams seem a lifetime away and the only people left in the libraries are those who are very serious.
  • When I arrived at the little library on Tuesday, one of the librarians was busily taking the ornaments off the Christmas tree at the main entrance. I walked past and then doubled back to confirm that, yes, she was taking them off and not putting them on. The tree went up in the third week of November. Confusing, but when I walked out of the library at the end of the day, the tree was fully decorated again, only now it was much bigger and bushier and it smelt divine. They’d obviously decided that a real tree couldn’t be trusted to survive if displayed any earlier, so they’d set up the fake tree first, even though that made extra work.
  • The tree smells amazing. I love walking past it.
  • I have spent the bulk of my workweek cutting words out of my chapter for our edited volume. It feels weird to consider a day productive when the end result is fewer words on the page, but the chapter was significantly over length, so it had to be done. I’ve cut 2,457 words out in the last three days. Progress, to be sure, but there is more that must be destined for the trash.
  • I have started my book revisions. This should be accompanied by several (nay, copious) exclamation marks, given this is the albatross that has hung around my neck for the past two years (moaned about most recently here and here). What forced me to get started was, I think, a combination of personal loathing (I am so sick of not having finished the book that I think the idea of continuing to not finish the book is now worse than the process of finishing it), the lack of alternatives for procrastination (chapter draft finished- all the tinkering in the world can’t eat up every day of every week), and my newly-formed writing accountability group. At the first meeting, three of my four goals for December were book related. I wanted to work on the book revisions at least an hour a day once my seminar paper was over, I wanted to have completed all the “easy” revisions my readers recommended, and I wanted to have started a new file on my computer for the second draft (which ought to be the most absurdly simple goal to meet, but the very act of starting a new file and thus BEGINNING the revisions was something which had become a huge mental block). I am motivated to not embarrass myself, and so stating these goals to the other members has meant that now I am on track to meet all three goals.
  • Before starting the revisions, I forced myself to read the readers’ reports again. For two years now I have operated under the knowledge that there was a good review and a bad review. Reviewer B really quite liked the book and thought I should be offered a contract once I had completed the (relatively minor) revisions. Reviewer A didn’t like the book all that much and had doubts about whether it ought to be published, even with significant revisions. The funny thing is that once I read them again, I realized this wasn’t quite true. Both readers had similar criticisms about the book overall: they both felt the middle four chapters were the strongest, and they both, quite rightly, felt that I suffered too much from the dissertation anxiety of “must include everything!” and used too many examples and discussed those examples at far too great a length. Reviewer A’s most serious criticism largely stems from (I think) a misunderstanding of my argument, which itself stems from the way I did (or did not) define my terms and organize my ideas. Two years of ignoring the reports has meant that I’ve created enough distance between myself and my dissertation that consigning large sections of it to the trash now seems like the obvious right thing to do instead of an unimaginable horror. I don’t think I could have made the revisions in late 2015 and early 2016 even if my life had not been derailed by pregnancy/father’s accident/stepfather’s terminal cancer; I think I would have still been too close to it. But now I have another project which I’m enjoying, and the dissertation is no longer sacrosanct. Between the two reports, the report from my external examiner (who also felt the middle four chapters were the strongest), and my own sense of what needs to be changed, I think I have a strong (and not too contradictory) framework for going forward. It will still be a lot of work, of course, especially once the easy revisions are complete and I have to get down to the business of editing, but it now seems manageable, and provided I keep telling my accountability group what I intend to do, I will have no choice but to do it.
  • And now I must go and open that new file and complete a few more revisions. To close, a different kind of Christmas tree (spotted in the big library, along with a sign explaining the history of the books used, because of course):

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Books, Life after the PhD, Writing

Strength in Numbers?

A few weeks ago, after I’d taken the quiz to find out my BASE in terms of my writing (the link to the quiz is in my other post and I’ll wait while you go and take it because it’s really neat), I sent an email out to two of my female colleagues/almost friends to ask if they wanted to join a writing accountability group.

I sent the email partly because I was experimenting with improving my social skills for my writing, but also because I’d come to realize in the first month of my postdoc that I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself if I was going to make any progress on my book.

I was a model of productivity for my postdoc…right up until the point where I largely finished the first draft of the chapter I’ve been writing for the edited volume and needed to turn my attention to my book revisions.

And then I stalled.

I tinkered.

I read books related to both projects.

I decided to try to post 30 times in 30 days on this blog, which counted as writing time, but not the writing that would help get the book revisions finished.

I did not want to get started on the book revisions, the revisions I’ve needed to do since August 2015.

And it was too easy to refuse to start them (again) because if I didn’t start them, the only person I was letting down was myself.

If I didn’t write the chapter for the edited volume, I was hurting my co-contributors, but I was also hurting my co-editors, one of whom is Q.

I’m not going to disappoint Q. if he’s counting on my work for his own project.

Plus, the first draft of something is what I like to write the best, so it was easy to sit down at the keyboard and let all the ideas that had been burbling around inside of me come flowing out.

I already did that with my book. The result was my PhD dissertation.

I hate editing my work. HATE. IT.

And I hate being rejected by people. HATE. IT.

So it’s been unbelievably easy for me to just not do the revisions because they combine two of my least favourite things.

If I don’t take the risk to put myself out there, I don’t have to face the consequences of being rejected.

Somewhere in late October I realized that this situation was never going to change if I didn’t change the circumstances under which I was operating, because although I occasionally lay awake at night wondering if the editor at Esteemed University Press ever wondered where my book was (answer: no, because said editor has many other books to deal with and many, many other academics who haven’t done their revisions either), and I knew I would disappoint my supervisor (and, let’s face it, Q.) if I never published the book, ultimately it just wasn’t a strong enough motivating factor.

I’d hit the point with that research where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I was convinced that everything I had to say was bleedingly obvious and that any attempt on my part to publish said research would expose me for the fraud I am (see earlier post on imposter syndrome). The idea that if I published the book people might read and disagree with the book (or, worse, think the book was pointless) was paralyzing.

So I emailed two other women whom I knew were in the same boat (actual sentence from our meeting: “I invited both of you to join because we all have the same albatross around our neck.”).

Last Friday we had our first meeting.

We talked a bit about why we were there. One of us has trouble writing but loves to edit. One of us has no trouble writing but hates to edit (that’s me). And one of us has trouble with both.

We talked about the emotional, physical, and psychological toll NOT HAVING A BOOK in a monograph-centric field has taken.

We talked about how our colleagues would never take us seriously (even the one of us who is tenured) without a book.

We talked about how much we hated our research, how fear and shame were the only forces that drove us forward, how we were paralyzed by our own self-doubt.

“This is a very surreal experience,” one of them said after I’d spent several minutes explaining how I felt like I had to finish the book even though I didn’t want to finish the book because I didn’t want the people who knew me to stand around talking about me in five years saying how it was such a shame I’d never produced a book. “It’s like I’m hearing my own voice come out of someone else’s mouth.”

We’re going to try to help each other get through this and get our books done.

We set short-term goals for our next meeting (late December) and medium-term goals for where we wanted to be by the end of July 2018.

If we don’t do what we’ve said we’re going to do, we have to turn up to the next meeting and tell the others why we didn’t.

Shame and fear, yes.

But support and camaraderie too.

It might just work.

 

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Books, Life after the PhD, Writing