All / Originally Posted on Skirt

Perilous Procrastination

This is just a brief note to tell you all how much I’ve been struggling with procrastination lately.  It’s gotten dangerous, and it’s starting to get me down.  I actually love my research and I love writing about all the fascinating things I experienced, as well as the infinitely nerdier academic conclusions I draw from those experiences–I get to use phrases like “political economy” and “belly dance discourse.”  I’m so, so proud of the work that I’ve done, and I’m proud of my research participants.  I mean, I’m proud to be associated with such an erudite, prescient, and articulate group of people, men and women.  (Not to mention stylish, energetic and fun!) 

So what’s the problem?  I just can’t get myself motivated to finish this chapter draft that I’m working on.  Partly it’s because it’s already so long.  It’s nearing 15,000 words, which is about thirty pages.  Plus I’ve been working on this chapter since long before I started my fieldwork, and I’m at that point where my eyes want to slide off the page every time I look at it, because I’ve seen so many drafts of it now that the words are starting to not make sense.  I don’t have a problem when I actually start working every day, and I get a fair amount done once I manage to get down to it.  But I really, really struggle to open up Word in the morning (or the afternoon, as the case may be).  It’s actually at the point of physical revulsion every time I click on that little icon.  

I’ve always had a desperate fear of failure, to the point where it stops me doing some things because I’m too afraid of failing to even try.  I think this is part of the problem–I’m afraid that my supervisor or my research participants won’t like what I’ve written, either because they’ll think I can do better or because they’ll think I’ve misrepresented them.  (The second problem is actually pretty easy to solve–I can just ask them what they think once I’ve got the draft to a point where other people can read it.)  I feel a real responsibilty to the people who let me into their lives, sharing their thoughts and their time and really going out of their way to help me out.  I want to do the best I can possibly do for them, naturally.  This is so different from where I was when I started this chapter and I was only dealing with dusty academic tomes or with newspaper articles written by people I’m never likely to meet.  Those arguments and reports I can merrily rip to shreds without the slightest compunction.  It’s quite a different thing to worry that I’ve taken a friend’s words out of context, or focused too much on something they actually don’t feel is all that important. 

I’m also impatient to conclude this chapter and start a new phase of production–I’ve got five chapters to write and I’m only on the second one.  As you may know, I have a lovely Gantt chart to tell me exactly when I should be working on what, and while I’m still on track, I just lost the weekend because I didn’t finish by Friday.  Not because I was doing anything exciting–I wasn’t out gallivanting in the sunshine, I was just sitting inside with my computer on but not actually working, which feels like a waste from both angles.  

But if all goes well, I’ll finish it by tomorrow evening and then I can do something fun like uploading the photos from my trip to Paris with my mom!  Really, there’s no better argument against procrastination than to say that the more you put it off, the more time you’re going to spend worrying about doing it so you might as well just get it done already.  But that is a solution I will leave to ponder until another day…