Monday, May 30, 2011

Procrastination can be Fun (and debilitating)

Speaking of time . . .

In a little under 2 weeks I will head to our nation's capitol, where I will spend 6 weeks doing some work at my favorite library in the whole world and participating in a summer seminar with a reading list as long as my bibliography.

I promised an editor that I would send him my book manuscript at the beginning of the summer as it was nearly completed when we met in January. Then I got sick (pneumonia--don't try this at home). Then I got better, and wrote to him, and we agreed that I needed more time. Then I got the brilliant idea of scrapping about 50 pages from one of my chapters and rewriting it based on a brief paper I recently gave at MLA. Then I got the second brilliant idea of turning my introduction into a separate chapter, and writing a new, short introduction to the book.

The work has been going well, though not exactly as quickly as I would like. I am not entirely sure I will be done in time to send the manuscript off by the end of June, though I sincerely hope I will. I'm about 90% finished with the sweet new chapter and I'm really happy with it. Then on to the intro-spin off chapter, which needs about 15 pages on Jonson's Poetaster, which will be smooth sailing and loads of fun to write. Then back to the new, shorter intro to give it an update on recent theory and scholarship. Then I shall double-check my intros and conclusions to all the other chapters, and set it free, only about 3 months late.

Since I clearly have this all planned out, and have been writing on average about 6 pages a day, every day, no days off, this should be no problem whatsoever, correct?

WRONG! For some reason unless I am at my desk during the school-year stealing a few hard-earned non-student-filled hours, or in the middle of an archival reading room surrounded by other scholars more diligent than me, heads bent dutifully over books and laptops, I am unable to stay focused for long stretches of time.

After two hours at the computer I feel great because I'm clearly, honest-to-god WRITING. So still feeling pleased with myself, I wander outside and pet the porch kitty (more on him later), water the plants, sweep the porch, swiffer the floors, make tea, go for a walk. Then I go back to work and carefully write another four to six paragraphs. Then I fiddle around adding footnotes and images and pulling quotes in. Then it is too late to do any more work at all because it is time to go to the gym, where I lift weights and do cardio intervals on the elliptical thingy without falling off, so I actually feel like I'm getting stuff done, and then I get to sit in the sauna or steam room and feel good about myself because I am being HEALTHY and getting THINNER, so yay! Then it is time for dinner and because it is now summer we get to cook and prepare yummy fresh things from the farmer's market, like salade nicoise or chilled pea soup or gazpacho and then have minted honeydew popsicles for dessert (adorable beau is a popsicle addict so we make them every week). Then it's time to maybe watch a movie and/or to read the New Yorker in bed with my adorable beau and our cat, so yay!

Then I fall asleep and dream dreadful anxiety dreams about putting a 20page manuscript in the mail, or about the apartment flooding and the landlord trippling the rent, or about losing everything I've ever written, or losing the ability to write or see or think or about going up for tenure suddenly tomorrow (by the way, I can totally control when I go up for tenure at this new job, meaning I can go up as soon as I get a book contract, or wait a few years, which is awesome, but also might be slowing me down a little bit). When I wake up, I rush to the computer to make things right. In other words, I only manage to get things done if I do them half-assedly and then put them off enough to cause me to fret and worry about it unconsciously to the point of waking up in a cold sweat, shaking with apprehension. My cycle looks a lot like this and this.

I recently started blogging again in the hopes that it would help me stay focused on finishing my manuscript. I'm not sure if it's working, but it certainly beats making tea or going for a walk. And hey, at least I'm writing stuff.

1 comment:

Renaissance Girl said...

Writing anything = good.

Nice to see you back.