This is the next-to-last “official” WWW post. My classes start next week, and I intend to keep working hard on writing in the first week of classes. Then I’ll do a couple of “late paper” posts on the last two Mondays in January, so we can see who is doing mop-up operations on winter-break projects even after classes get underway.
The beginning of last week went well, for me, and then an insomniac period set in: not the “good” insomnia in which it’s hard to get to sleep but then I can sleep a normal amount, or where I wake up in the middle of the night and get up to read for awhile. No, it’s the really nasty type, in which I sleep lightly, rousing frequently, and don’t get into deep, refreshing sleep. I may be sleeping, but I wake up almost as tired as when I went to bed.
So in the last few days, instead of writing (outlining) the MMP or working on a syllabus, I have been cleaning my study. Two floor-to-ceiling bookcases have been emptied, dusted, and re-filled; a small stack of books will be given away; 4 inches or so of photocopies are set to become scratch paper; four shoeboxes of odds and ends have been reduced to three. This isn’t a serious attempt to purge, just an effort to be tidier, but the experience of having every item on those shelves in my hands makes me realize I can definitely get rid of some stuff.
It also reacquaints me with materials for projects that, one way or another, haven’t come to fruition. The roads not taken, the genuine dead-ends, and the creative U-turns. The phrase is Julia Cameron‘s, referring to self-sabotage that keeps you from finishing a project: you get scared, or you get cocky and try to do too much and then get scared. “Creative U-turns are always born from fear—fear of success or fear of failure. It doesn’t really matter which,” she writes. But recognizing them is hard, and painful; not only that, it has the potential to undermine progress elsewhere.
The MMP has moved along in the last few weeks, but it’s not done. I’ll start teaching soon. I have to finish prepping for spring courses, do some committee work and other service tasks, and then there will be grading and the two conference papers I have to give this spring, and . . this . . . and . . . that . . . . The list starts to look very threatening, and between insomnia and the concrete evidence of past failures-to-complete, I begin to wonder if I will ever finish it.
But, Julia says, you have to keep moving forward and coax yourself along. I have not dropped this project. I’m feeling skittish about it, but a lot of that is the fatigue talking. Once I get back to sleeping properly, the writing will go better. Some parts of the outlining can be done fairly mechanically, as can another task associated with analysis of one part of the project. I can keep working on those things even if I’m a bit brain-dead.
Also, now that I’ve started, I really want to work my way through the other five bookcases.
I’m going to attempt to call roll, but if I’ve left you out, feel free to comment anyway, and blame the omission on my sad brain-state. I’m not sure who’s still hanging around for the Writing Workshop, and I’ve lost track of some people’s goals, but anyway, there is a list, and here are some questions to think about:
Where are you at with your goals? Are you back to teaching, or do you still have some class-free time to work? Do you need to triage your goals, or re-set for the spring semester/winter quarter? Are there fears that need to be faced? Are you tempted to sabotage yourself in some way? How can you protect yourself?
Another Damned Medievalist:
Contingent Cassandra: fully-fleshed-out outline.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell:
Good Enough Woman: read another chapter from the philosophy text and 30 more pages of primary text, and fill three handwritten pages in my notebook.
Lost in Academe:
Matilda: two hours for my work every day; finish the first part of my encyclopaedia work
Naked Philologist: Check-in/brainstorm with supervisor; finish the section I’ve been slogging away at; make a reading list for filling in gaps in said section.
nicoleandmaggie: do actual work.
Rented Life: type 29 pages of notes.
Sisyphus: clean up the lit review footnotes; polish the thesis a bit more; deal with Dr. Does Everything’s comments.
Sitzfleisch: stick to the schedule, which includes 14.5 hours of writing.
Trapped in Canadia:
WTG Homesteader: one page per working day.
Writing Triathlete: look through edition materials and size up where I am with the project so I can figure out the next step; write two article abstracts.