I want to thank Trapped in Canadia for introducing me to Jen Dziura’s column Bullish, which has been encouraging me to think about both my job and my career in ways that are already making me more efficient and happier. One of the things I like best about her is that she is very rational and analytical. She believes in planning rather than hoping, rationality rather than cockeyed optimism, doing the numbers rather than trusting that things will work out.
For various reasons, including being older and settled into a career whose parameters are basically dictated by someone else, I am not her target audience. All the same, when I consider my values and my abilities, it becomes clear that certain things are easy for me to control, while others are not, and I would do better to maximize the easy ones. One example: while I can act as if I’m a warmer, kinder person in the classroom, performing such a persona takes a vast amount of energy I don’t really have. However, I can warn students that I am a brisk, coastal-style person . . . and then grade their assignments efficiently and usefully, so that papers come back quickly and with helpful comments. So I’m less lovable, but I don’t care about being loved. I care about being useful. Rationally maximizing my time/energy output makes sense here.
Why, then, am I also so fond of Julia Cameron, whose writing advice embraces the woo-woo? The Universe wants you to be happy and creative! Make your life what you want it to be! Trust your dreams! Find joy and satisfaction in your life by doing things that make you happy! Write affirmations that say you are capable, confident, deserving, and you will become those things! This sounds like the sort of thing Dziura describes as “impenetrably blithe.”
Well, sometimes in order to get where your rational self wants to be, you need a little woo-woo. Of course you know the odds against you: will your novel even find a publisher, let alone become a best-seller that will let you move to New Mexico and write full-time? Ha ha. Will your academic book really change the face of the discipline? Uh-huh. Will your dissertation even get you a job? Um . . . .
But an unwritten novel is guaranteed not to be published; the unwritten academic tome doesn’t stand a chance of changing anything; the unfinished dissertation will most certainly not get you the job that requires dissertation in hand. You can’t ensure your own success, that is true. But you can most certainly ensure failure. So you have to at least meet the bar of finishing whatever it is.
And so it’s time for the woo-woo that will let you shut off the voices and the doubts and get on with it. Do your affirmations: “I am a prolific and insightful writer.” If you are too aware of past failures, try the Carolyn See approach: “Up until now, I had trouble with conclusions, but now I write strong and interesting conclusions!” Embody the voices, shrink them down, and squash the bugs. If visualizing yourself giving the keynote at the major conference in your field seems too unrealistic (and thus gets the voices going again), visualize yourself at your desk, working contentedly and productively for half an hour a day, every day. If that’s too tame, imagine a chorus line of drag queens in 6-inch silver heels, feather headdresses, and not much else, singing “You’re the tops!” It’s your fantasy life: let it be rich, productive, and comforting. Whatever keeps you doing the work, moving the project forward every day, taking baby steps if that’s what you’re able to do.
ComradePhysioProf: write another fucken grant proposal due in 3 weeks.
Contingent Cassandra: continue to add to the P article/paper/outline-in-progress, with the goal of moving toward a more formal outline for the article, and a sense of which pieces will be fleshed out in the conference paper. Take care of remaining urgent ancillary task.
DEH: schedule 5 hours on the MMP. Do the next two research-analysis tasks on my list. Maybe do some focused free-writing about a topic my RL writing group identified as being relevant.
EAM: Pack, move, stay sane.
FeMOMhist: Set up some sort of automatic reminder to keep project in forefront of my mind. 500 words for next week.
thefrogprincess: Do the outline. Maybe get some rewriting done?
GEW: Find and procure a book review for a theory text that I find difficult. Read a methods chapter. Write one page.
Ink: Write two more pages.
JaneB: a) Smooth out the rest of the lumps into a rough draft. b) type all my notes into the outline of the Unexpected Paper that started last week.
JLiedl: Finish grant application: really! Identify and start acquiring outstanding sources for conference paper/article.
kiwimedievalist: missing in action.
Luo Lin: four solid hours of work. Specifically, my next tasks are to read through my newly-organized draft, write and delete as necessary, incorporate some sources, and put the paper back together.
Matilda: finish the rest of the project; write at least 15 minutes a day.
Nancy Warren: keep on truckin’ with the chapter / conference paper draft; try to identify more clearly which bits actually ARE the paper and organize them as such.
profgrrrl: Finish both chapters and get them sent out (because I don’t want that book stuff hanging over my head during spring break). Finish conference paper revisions by Monday. And if I have any steam left, I’ll work on a conference proposal (it’s a brief one).
Rented Life: start the damn book! seriously. Also either begin writing the scene that’s in my head or begin reviewing previous writings that have been left alone for a month and a half.
Sapience: start revisions on chapter 5. If I can read at least two articles or book chapters every day (10-12 total?) I’ll count that a win. If I can start actually writing the revisions, that would be a bonus.