Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The elusive goal of having a consistent writing schedule

One skill I wish I have is to be consistent.  More specifically, I wish I could have a more consistent writing schedule and thus be consistently productive.  

Ideally, I wish I could be one of those people who wakes up promptly at 8 am and, after eating an energy-boosting, nutritious breakfast, promptly sits in front of her computer to write until 5, stopping only to eat and to take bathroom breaks.  Also in this ideal world, my papers will be well-organized, my books alphabetized, and my writing space pristine.

In reality, what happens is that my days fluctuate wildly.  There are days, like yesterday, when I accomplish a lot.  I woke up at 8 am, was in school by 8:30, and spent all of my time writing.  I finished an important section for this infernal chapter that I’ve been working on for the past year (!), writing 2,500 words in total and developing an important theoretical framework crucial to my work.  In addition to doing all of these things, I also spent an hour at the gym, helped make an amazingly succulent pulled pork taco dinner, helped a colleague brainstorm on this new project that she is developing, and provided suggestions via email for this research project that I am pursuing with a group of other activists and academics.  In other words, I was the boss, the queen bee academic, the poster-child for productivity.

Today was a struggle.  I woke up at 10 am to the sounds of my building’s apartment manager rapping on my door for our semi-annual unit inspection.  (They very quickly left after their inspection when they saw that I was still sleepy). Though I was initially annoyed, I was later relieved that they actually woke me up.  After puttering around in my kitchen trying to figure out what to eat, and having an internal debate on whether I should go to bikram yoga or jump straight to writing, I ended up delaying these decisions by surfing on the Internet and being lured into an online discussion on whether Doug Ford will actually have the tenacity to run for mayor in the event brother Rob can’t.  After this, I read celebrity gossip (my crack, to be honest), amused by the prospect of a newly pregnant Jessica Simpson possibly reneging on her Weight Watchers deal.  And then, upon looking at the time, I decided that going to bikram yoga just wasn’t going to happen today.  And here I am, at 2 pm.  After marking a few papers, I opened the chapter I was working on yesterday and am now faced with the sinking realization that yesterday’s queen-bee academic is today’s pathetic jester.  Every sentence I spit out seems insipid; all ideas seem trite.

This, readers, is how I write.  My master’s thesis that got a distinction and that won awards?  That was written at the very last minute, mere days before I had to leave for India to begin a new job (my first ever post-graduation).  In fact, as I was typing the conclusion of my thesis, I had to beg the FedEx guy to please please please wait for me to finish because if he didn’t, then my thesis won’t arrive in England on time and I wouldn’t be able to get my master’s degree.  In fact, the nice people in the mom and pop printing shop where I was working were so sympathetic, as was the FedEx guy, that they all collectively printed and collated each of my chapters while I was typing.  With 5 minutes to spare before the FedEx guy had to go, my thesis was printed and sent to England.  It was a tense moment, never to be done again.

Or so I thought.  Every journal article, every chapter, every conference paper that I’ve ever produced was written when I had the spurt of adrenaline to keep me going and keep me writing.  All-nighters are my friend.  Fuelled by inspiration (desperation?), that’s when I write best.  Though I always made my deadlines, the deflating feeling after, when all the energy has sapped out of me, is the worst.

And so I want to find the happy middle.  I reblogged Tim Gunn’s exhortation to “just write” yesterday and I suppose that was what actually made me productive yesterday.  My new goal, though, is to be consistently productive, which many tell me is the key to a solid academic/writing career.