Over at ADM’s new blog some charming people enjoyed my reference to “oh-shit-it’s-August syndrome,” and two weeks ago Notorious wrote about not panicking, so now I’m going to do my own post about the syndrome, and panic, and lists . . . (wait a minute while I freak out, which is what the syndrome is all about).

OK, so there’s what I really have to do, and there’s what I really want to do, and there are all those things that I thought I’d like to get done but need to let go of. And then there’s the question of whether some elements of the last group don’t actually belong there.

It’s August. Classes start in two weeks, with faculty meetings beforehand. Besides writing and class prep and having some last bits of summer fun, I have a couple of medical appointments I’m taking care of before classes start, and possibly one or more dentist appointments depending on whether a sensitive spot calms down or gets worse. (If it’s going to get worse, I wish it would just come on and do it already, instead of waiting for the first or second day of classes.) I’m pretty clear on the have-to (syllabi etc, and at least one House Thing) and the most definite want-to (a little more fun reading and a sewing project).

But then there are writing-related but not-writing activities, which are desirable but not really essential, like tidying up my home office. It’s workable right now. It’s not fabulous. There are heaps of books on my desk. There are more library books on the shelves than I really need right now, especially if I’m mainly focusing on the article that wants to be a monograph. There is a heap of paper stuff that needs to get filed. But all of these are fairly normal procedure, really, and I am working. Since I got back (not counting writing done on the plane), I’ve produced . . . let’s see . . . Basement Cat, get off my research journal . . . about 2000 words. These are what I might call “focused pre-writing,” rather than true rough-draft writing, because the section presently under construction didn’t get as much pre-writing as the first chunk I wrote. But that’s fine. This stage of writing has to happen sometime, and I might as well do it now, while I’m on a roll.

Anyway. Clearly I am managing to work. OTOH, the desk where I worked at the Wilde Wommene’s Colony for Enditers was truly spare. I thought it was actually a little intimidating: no friendly heaps of books, no way to look things up! But I sure got a lot done while I was there. That might just be because of the lack of distractions in the way of cats and household stuff, and because “chapter one” had received more pre-writing, so I had a lot to work with. Nonetheless, you know how writers are magical thinkers, and have to have their Special Writing Clothing, or Special Pen, or Special Coffee Mug? Right. I am wondering if I would do better to have my Specially Cleared Desk.

Certainly I could return some books that are meant for last year’s Current Project (which really needs a better name). The only reason I don’t is that it’s a bit of a hassle to get the interlibrary loan ones back again. But that doesn’t sound like such a good reason, really. If I sent some books to their natural habitats, I could get the heaps off my desk, and maybe be a bit more organized with the current current projects, including class plans.

So is working on my only-manageably-cluttered study a good use of my time that will pay off in greater efficiency down the road, or is it a piece of magical thinking that I should let go of in favor of writing syllabi, working on my sewing project, and hacking back the horribly overgrown and weedy garden? Actually, I am terribly tempted to abandon the garden until frost kills off some stuff—this seasonal nonsense is good for something!—though I do rather fear What The Neighbors Will Think. And, come to think about it, for optimal sewing enjoyment the study-clearing would also be a good thing, because there might then be room to set up the machine in here and not clutter the living room with it. I could give up on the sewing and garden instead . . . if we ever get a cool enough day that I want to be outside.

Thrashing. It’s what oh-shit-it’s-August syndrome is all about.

6 thoughts on “August syndrome

  1. Great post, Dame Eleanor!! Exactly what I was feeling when I read your comment — just couldn't figure out what to call it. Guess I was too busy thrashing. 😉

  2. I was considering posting something very similar. It seems that I'm going through the exact same questions – except that term has well and truly started.I know I need to clear the desk, because I spend too much time on the internet (see!) when I sit on the couch, with the cat and computer on my knee. But clearing the desk requires clearing that room, which I really don't have time for. And now the first lot of essays are in, that desk would be really useful. And how does one balance all the marking and reading and writing with other bits of life, such as sewing (3 projects currently on the go), gardening (thankfully, still in a winter slumber), reading fun stuff (which I need for sanity), spending time with family, etc? Any hints?

  3. Hints! LOL!! Balance!!! ROTFLMAO!!!Oh, Zcat. Oh, dear. Well, I hear that some people have calendars where they schedule their grading, their family time, their "self" time, and so on. I just endlessly rob Peter to pay Paul. Especially during term time. It's true that I always start the term with a "time map" when I should be doing various things. 3 or 4 weeks into the term, I work out what I'm actually doing and start over. 7 or 8 weeks in and the whole thing is in tatters except for showing up for class on time.But I'm leaning toward clearing my study, because it wouldn't be such an awful job at this point, but it would be nice to see the results, and then maybe I can keep it picked up a bit longer through the term. I think reading my organization books and the Chron's de-cluttering thread is a Sign that I'm ready.

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