I spent the weekend trying to write the paper I was stressing about in this post. By trying, I mean fixating on how I wanted to clean my apartment and throw out most of my belongings, cleaning my apartment, skimming back issues of the economist (because then I get to throw them out!), and periodically sitting down at my computer and either crying or getting a splitting headache and having to lie down.
In all of this, I wrote one paragraph – one. The email I eventually wrote to my supervisor explaining that I was a miserable failure and wouldn’t make the deadline was longer.
The frustrating thing, was that much of the paper was there – it was just in pieces, in blog posts, in the talk I gave in Switzerland. Original thought was not required, that bit was done. But even putting together pieces seemed to be beyond me.
I was so furious with myself, because I’ve never done that before. Yes, I’ve cut things a little fine. Yes, I’ve underestimated the time something would take. Yes I’ve indulged in a little structured procrastination – up to a point. But, I’d never stared down the deadline and done… nothing. Never had I had such a case of writer’s block.
My boyfriend was in Hawaii (as you can imagine, in the middle of a snowstorm in Canada this did not help my motivation), but I spoke to my parents, and Maggie. They used different words, but with a theme – burnt out, exhausted, “running on fumes” (is that like “running on empty”?)
They might be right. Definitely, I’m over the jittering about. Starting a new job is mentally exhausting as I try to get to grips with our codebase. I think as well though, it was being so convinced that the paper would be rejected, I didn’t have a story to tell myself as to why I should be hammering away at this, rather than curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a novel.
In the end, the deadline was extended by about 15 hours, and my supervisor (this is the awesome one, of course) managed to create something coherent out of my pieces. I stayed up until 2am on Monday, and we made the deadline. I was – still am – shocked. And it was worth doing, because whilst I still don’t think it will be accepted, now it’s in this format I have a better sense of where the gaps are and what I need to add to make it whole, and to be able to draw conclusions from it.
One of my friends, has this really clear vision for how she thinks her life will turn out. She can see it so vividly, and she believes - completely – that is how her life is going to turn out. She thinks this is a strength. I find it so frustrating that I want to shake her. I don’t care how vivid the vision, it’s what you do today that makes it happen. If I told you I could vividly imagine myself as an astronaut, or a super model, or Mark Zuckerberg you would think I was bonkers – wrong industry, too old (and short, and curvy), too old and too ethical. But, I would say it’s no more realistic for a 20 year old boy with a lax attitude to other people’s privacy to say he wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg if all he’s doing is sitting around playing video games.
You create tomorrow by what you do today. My bout of procrastination scared me because it’s not like me, but also because I don’t like the tomorrow that would create if it continued.
So – what are you busy doing? Are you creating the future you want? Or are you dreaming about it and hoping that will make it happen?
Myself, I’m going to be busy taking a much needed break.