Thursday, April 11, 2013

On knowing when NOT to write and cutting your losses

As those of you who are academics, writers, consultants, and free-lance contractors know, the hardest part about setting your own schedule is the fear that you will succumb to your baser instincts and spend most of your work day doing this:

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I’ve blogged before about the difficulties of having a consistent writing schedule, a challenge which most people I know apparently face.  My issue is that even when I’m sitting in front of the computer - either at my home office or at my ‘office’ at the nearby cafe, where other freeloaders lancers go - there is a chance that I’ll be doing this:

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Or even, at my lowest moments (e.g., after getting ‘suggestions for revisions’ back or when nothing is coming to my brain), this:

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Recently, though, I’ve come to the entirely unoriginal epiphany that accepting that writing is a process and that those moments spent staring into space/crying/not doing anything is part of the game.  Others have said this to me but, being bullheaded, I didn’t listen and continued to fret over not being “the Perfect PhD.”  The fact is, the idea that one has to show something tangible at the end of each working day is ridiculous.  I tried doing that at first but when I reviewed what I wrote the next day, I had to start from the very beginning all over again anyway because the writing I forced myself to do was terrible - illogical, not grounded in solid research, meandering.  

As I’ve come to accept, there are days when I can’t write because I just can’t.  No explanations needed.  Then, there are days when all I can do is write - our zombie overlords may have started masticating people’s brains outside my office, the apocalypse might be taking place as I type - but it’s irrelevant because I’m putting words to page, dammit, and nothing can stop me.  

Hence, rather than wasting time fretting over how we are ‘wasting’ time by not doing anything, we might as well accept this as being natural.   No one is productive 100% of the time so if there are days when you feel like the ideas aren’t coming, cut your losses, call it a day, and start again tomorrow.