Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dear World: Please do all my work for me while I eat ice cream. Kthxbye.

So, I had a thought. And I’m going to try and think through this even though it is probably really just another form of procrastination for myself.

I am waiting to hear back on my dissertation, and that makes sense as I do need people to sign off on it, but also, I’m kinda sitting around avoiding doing anything right now. I’ve got my abstract to write, I’ve got my job letter to update, I’ve got two articles to revamp and send out again for consideration. There’s a commonality to all of these ---- I am not working on them because I am waiting for feedback on them. But I don't really need to get feedback on them; I could do them on my own right now. I think that secretly I want someone to tell me what to do with them, give me orders, do the work of thinking through them for me. I think it’s partly that I’m a little afraid and partly passivity --- I’m not really taking responsibility here for the “ownness” of my own work.

And that seems silly ---- the kind of thinking I need to put behind me now that I really am all but dissertated. Really, how can I justify my claim to an 8-cornered floppy tam if I’m going to sit around and wait for someone to do the work, or at least all the planning of work, for me? That won’t get me far as a real boy professor. I’d say “Man up, Cog!” if that worked gender-wise, and “woman up” just sounds silly. “Grad up, Cog!” Maybe that works.

So I am avoiding on all of these because they are hard work right now --- who the hell wants to summarize an entire dissertation in 350 words? ---- and they are at hard stages of thinking and re-thinking. I just don’t feel like doing something tough. (I rarely do.) I want someone to do all the hard thinking for me and then I will color in the lines quietly. Hence my attempts to clean and return library books instead of abstracting or revising. I think, it’s partly that I sorta know what to do and how to do it, but not really --- or maybe I know but am not really confident and secure with this stage of tasks and I want someone to show me the way or do a practice one for me or something. Or to look at something and give me a detailed list of exactly what to do and how to do it, all the big amorphous tasks broken down into doable activities. Then I could trundle off and happily complete the tasks one by one, complaining and railing all the while against this person’s rigid, controlling, micromanaging nature. (On another note, I recently had a discussion about the teenage habit of boundary-testing and wanting it both ways --- both limits and the freedom to push against and test those limits ---- and I came to the conclusion that I have never grown up past that teenage status. Sounds stupid? Oh yeah? Bite me. You’re not my real dad!!!)

Anyway, I need to figure out how to make myself do these things, or make them not scary, or find something that I can use as a work-around. Reading? Scribbling out a blorp of ideas about a primary text? Writing a conference abstract? I can do all those. I know how. I have no worries or fears. I just have to throw myself into it early enough that I’m not tired and late enough that all the coffee has kicked in, and I can go just fine. But I think this next step ---- the publishing, revising, dealing with feedback on articles, preparing job materials that will also be judged and given outside feedback ---- all these I still don’t feel really confident in and need to work on, um, not caring, or being fearless, or being able to throw myself into the job, or something.

So, obviously that’s my next self improvement project --- my next stage of professional development, if you will. I’d invite you all to leave helpful suggestions for improvement in the comments, but eh, I’m not really good at dealing with those, you know?


Autumn Song said...

I read this post and thought "that sounds just like me!". And I've been procrastinating about organising my future academic life (in terms of sorting out something - anything - to be published) whilst filling in job application after job application for months now. If you come up with a solution, other than telling yourself to "Just get on with it", which so far isn't working for me, please let me know!

Psycgirl said...

I think it's probably normal to feel completely unmotivated after finishing up most of your dissertation. I feel unmotivated after finishing a paper for class, so I'm sure my diss would slay me. And you are probably not too motivated to do the job stuff because that's damn scary! Moving on to a new identity, no longer being a grad student? Personally it terrifies me. I wouldn't beat yourself up too hard, and I'd take the time for ice cream. Your motivation will return - we can't be highly motivated all the time, it's not possible. (But if you do find an avoidance busting secret, please let me know!)

Sisyphus said...

Psychgirl --- I don't know; this publishing stuff has been a problem of mine for a couple years now --- just like Autumn Song, I've avoided dealing with it and when my stuff gets rejected I avoid looking at it to send back out, so I think this is bigger than just the post-dissertation laziness. And unfortunately, the timeline I set out for myself has _right now_ as the big free moment where I can send out all my rejected stuff again and prepare for the job market, so I don't really have any choice! It's do it now or don't do it this market season. Bleah.

Dr. Crazy said...

Coming to this late, but as for getting on with the job stuff.... I think it's easier to motivate oneself once the list comes out. I know that is procrastinating, but seriously: why would anybody be motivated to do the job stuff without actual jobs to be excited about (however stupid that excitement is)?

And I don't think that you should beat yourself up for laziness. Seriously. The fact is, sometimes we need to actually rest and recharge before we can do more academic work. That includes when we get rejections or demands to revise. It's not lazy to avoid looking in earnest at that stuff for a few weeks - sometimes it's necessary in order to get past the sting of one's work being criticized to take some time and gain some distance before really trying to address whatever one needs to address.

And so yeah, part of the issue here is confidence - you're confident in those other areas because you've done more of those things and you've had a longer history of success in doing them. But also I think you really need to be just a wee bit nicer to yourself. I know. This is crazy talk. But I think if you are a bit nicer to yourself, it will actually make the work come more easily. That's probably the one post-dissertation nugget of wisdom that I can pass on. As soon as I started being nicer to myself, getting the work done became less of a struggle and I had more success with the work that I did. It turns out that the self-flagellation really didn't help with my productivity very much. Who knew?