Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Navel-Gazing, Whining, Etc.

You may want to click away to another blog if you can't stomach the self-pity and complaints, because that's what this post is going to be about. And yes, I realize I'm insufferable and I should shut up, etc., so nobody needs to tell me that either. My thought is this: either I write my way out of this funk in this space, or I'm going to end up abandoning this space for the term of my sabbatical, and if I do that I don't know that I'll know how to come back, or that I'll want to come back.

So. What's my problem? Well, I'm all moved into my house, and that means that I probably need to start working on the things that I'm being paid to work on this summer. But I feel...

Ok, how do I explain this? My problem, when it comes to writing, is not that I think I'm a fraud or an impostor or those typical things. I generally have faith in my ideas, and I'm generally a person who has great ideas. (I know, I hate myself as I'm writing this, too. But really, that is a thing about me.) My problem, instead, is that I'll have this idea - this great idea. And I can see how it's supposed to be executed totally clearly in my head. I can see all the pieces of it, and I can see how awesome the thing could end up being. All good, right? But the problem is that there is (as you might imagine) a disconnect between the vision and my abilities to execute the vision.

Now, to be fair, nobody could actually execute the vision. That's the reason why it's important for me to actually get my hands dirty and to start working rather than to be all focused on the vision. But the problem with the fact that I haven't really been consistently thinking about anything other than home ownership since March is that I've spent approx. 3 months in the "vision place" and so now I'm.... Well, I'm whining instead of getting to work. So it's not fraudulence that paralyzes me... it's delusions of grandeur. At least that's what I've come up with after a few days of sulking.

But so this is the problem, I think, that goes along with the above. I think that because I've been reading people talking about their research progress over the summer (or progress with teaching or whatever) I've somehow stopped thinking of my sabbatical project as fun and I've started thinking of it as work and as somehow in competition with other people, as opposed to me just having the awesome opportunity to spend months trying to answer really neat questions. I need to believe that this is not work. And I know that's crazy, but that's how it was with my dissertation, and then the book manuscript.... This was how it was for me with my math homework in 3rd grade. If I think it's "work" then I suddenly can't do it.

Anyway, I'm going to try to do at least a little tomorrow and see where that leads me.

Other things that are bothering me:
  • My favorite coffee shop just went out of business in May.
  • Everybody is fucking getting married or getting engaged or having motherfucking babies and I am a desperate spinster with two cats and a fake relationship with a person whom I don't see.
  • I feel stressed out by the programs in my DVR queue, and I think this is making me watch a lot more TV than I normally would.
  • It is hot - too hot to breathe - every motherfucking day. 90+ degrees and always humid and miserable.
  • [insert any other complaint here - I'm sure I've got more, but I'm tired of ranting.]


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Could it possibly be not that you can't execute the vision, but that you can't execute the vision on the first draft? The disconnect between what you want and what you're able to produce right away is immense and can be very discouraging.

At least you have an idea. I haven't got that yet.

As to the other points: coffee shop closure = major bummer; fake relationships are often worse than none at all, but singlehood need not be "desperate" (at least I hope not, for my sake!); you can always erase the DVR-ed stuff if it's oppressing you; hot weather sucks bigtime, no doubt about that.

Dr. Crazy said...

You know, here's the thing: I really do think it's that NOBODY could execute the vision. I don't think that this is a drafting issue, or an issue of immediate results. I think the issue is that the "vision" is (by necessity) unrealistic and unconnected to what really happens. I also think that I'll learn a ton through the writing, and so obviously the vision will change. The problem is that when I'm stuck in the "vision" place, I can't get moving on the "making a real thing" business, if that makes sense. So no, I'll *never* execute that vision - and practically speaking I know that, and I also know that's ultimately positive. It's just that when I'm in the "vision" place, I can't seem to move beyond it, if that makes sense.

Re: the fake relationship - it's not really fake, but that's how I feel about it in the face of marriages and babies and engagements. I'm not saying it's sustainable, but it's really, really good for a lot of reasons - just none of them what people want for me. And no, singlehood need not be desperate, and I don't think mine really is, except for the whole "what people want for me thing" previously. I'd certainly rather be single than a lot of other things I might be :) And ultimately I do have a pretty awesome life. But when I whine... well, I whine without a censor :)

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Despite all the "just do it" advice that seems so popular, I think sometimes when we can't move past a particular stage of a project it's because there's still thinking being done. It may not even be happening at a conscious level, but some part of the brain is doing work that more active writing might interfere with.

Or maybe that's just self-serving justification. But it helps me in thinking about working rhythms.

Anonymous said...

Just fucking start writing the shit up.

JaneB said...

I hear you about the 'perfect vision' problem! Every project I do has that issue... I am such a great scientist in my imagination (I am also thin, sexy and generally destined for sainthood...). Can you break off a little chunk of the overall impossible vision thing and play with it? Play is definitely what you need, not work!

And hot weather is totally anti-productivity.

Pika said...

Here's another person with the "great vision" problem. Just this morning when I woke up I realised how I might solve a problem that I have been thinking about for months. And it's an elegant, pretty, colorful vision of a solution. Trouble is, I've no idea if I can actually find a way to implement it (and yes, we're talking computer coding here, not writing, but it's similar, this is the part that'll require sitting down for a long time to do nitty-gritty work) so that it'll resemeble what I see in my mind.

Bardiac said...

Could you be underestimating the work that it has taken to buy the house and get moved in and settled, not only the physical work, but the emotional work? If so, maybe take a week and just luxuriate in the joys of the house. Get the Nook of Great Ideas in shape and do some pleasure reading there; drink iced tea (or whatever suits your fancy).

I'm sorry about the coffee house.

It's hard sometimes to be single when everyone else is pairing up. It's easier when everyoene else is getting divorced. :/

Maude said...

Crazy, this is EXACTLY what I wanted to articulate the other day when I was writing about being in a funk. Of course, I never do it as eloquently as you and I go off on tangents, but how you described the "vision" and your project and doing the "dirty work" that's exactly how I feel right now, though I don't even think I got close the other day to actually talking about work. I love how you describe what you're feeling--this "delusion of grandeur" because I get stuck in that too which then paralyzes me from producing anything which I clearly haven't ever done (but then once I get past the "grandeur" stage, I'm into "I'm an idiot" stage which sustains the paralysis).

Now it's starting to affect my working out because the funk and the stress are trickling over, and that bothers me, too, so now I can't sleep and I'm a slug drinking lots of beer and eating pizza and mexican and chinese foods every night.

I also have a similar issue with the tv watching. When I get stressed out about how much time I'm spending in front of the tv, I end up spending even more time watching it. And I don't even have cable in Village Town or Home City! How sad is that!! (I've been buying DVDs of tv shows because I only have an internet card in Home City and not cable).

Oh, and re: everyone getting married/engaged and having babies--the baby thing isn't easier when you're partnered up and people around you are having babies. Every conversation I have with a family member involves "so when are you going to have a baby? We're hoping you come home at Christmas and tell us you're pregnant!" Um, I've not even spent a whole week with my husband since we've been married. While I want kids, so not ready to just throw them into the mix right now! But no one can wait for the SB to reproduce. It is really stressful.

This is just all to say, rather lengthily, that you are not alone dear.

Maude said...

And I so didn't mean for any of that to sound like it was about me. I was just trying to commiserate and let you know that you're not alone, which I was hoping might make you feel better. :)

Rachael said...

I'm so glad you wrote this! It sounds very like my (fledgling) approach to work, down to needing to not feel like it's work, and I haven't come across anyone with the same approach before. I do, however, work best when I treat it like work in terms of showing up and doing something 9 to 5 (or whatever). Hope the funk eases soon.

Mark My Words said...

My filled DVR is telling me to get out of the house.

Kris Peleg said...

could you find a cooler place to be? I know the house is glorious, but if you need cooler, less humid air and the coffee shop is down, maybe a library? would it make you feel like it was fun (summer reading programs as a kid?) or work? I can't work through the heat, no matter how the vision calls.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for articulating the "delusions of grandeur" problem, because I often feel the same way with poems--I see how eloquent they could be in my head, but am paralyzed when it comes to doing the dirty work of making the words on the page actually fulfill that vision. I keep trying to remember how good it feels to write a really good poem, but that feeling is tricky to get a grasp on.

Susan said...

I don't think it's delusions of grandeur. I always think of this as the way that scholarship is like art: I think most artists could write the exact same thing -- they have a vision, and then they try to catch up to it. So what I do is never as brilliant as what I can see, but having the vision gives me something to work towards.

Feminist Avatar said...

I had this exact conversation with a colleague the other day- why it was that your idea are just so much more fantastic in your head than when you try to capture it in writing. It just seems impossible to make those connections apparent on paper.

nn said...

You're so charming!

I was telling someone yesterday that at the end of the day I always feel that I have accomplished too little. An idea that came to mind was to stay at work all night and use the adrenaline that runs in my veins to produce something outstanding.
Maybe I could. Plans make you feel alive.

Anonymous said...

Just to amplify: The act of writing itself is a very useful thought clarifier.

Dr. Crazy said...

You guys! I have to say that 1) it helped just to write all of that out yesterday but also 2) it really helped to see that so many of you have felt the same way or get how I'm feeling.

Anyway, today I ended up blowing off work and instead somehow ended up at the ginormous used bookstore downtown, where I found two books that are actually totally useful for my research (plus a couple of fun books), and I've spent the afternoon reading, which has been a good thing. More later perhaps, but I'm not feeling nearly so whiny!

Belle said...

All those many years back in my sabbatical (3), I remember looking up and thinking 'gah - x months gone! what've I done??' because I nurtured two conflicting visions of my time - 1) huge, unstructured fun time to concentrate on writing/researching and 2) writing/researching = unmitigated, unforced, free time. Yeah, right.

So all this sounds very very very familiar. I'm now thinking: sabbatical = no classes or committee meetings, lots of work that I have to figure out how to structure so I get it done.

A totally off-the-wall suggestion: try creating your vision in something other than writing words. Paint, sculpt... do sand paintings. Maybe that'll loosen up your creative juices. Give you a new perspective.