Month: February 2014

Productive Procrastination

So, six months into my Big Scary Masters Project, I finally decide to stop tormenting myself and start writing about it.

I’ve already started writing the project itself, of course, but writing about it is something else entirely.

It’s almost more difficult.

I reached the conclusion that writing about something is harder than writing the something early last week, when I was scrambling through the chaos in my head, trying to pull out threads of thought in a coherent manner so as to belatedly submit them to my supervisory panel in PDF format, as a thesis proposal.

I had been torturing myself with that process for two whole months. Constantly questioning myself, getting caught up in the imperfections, wondering if what I was doing actually mattered, and whether I was even capable of doing it.

Which begs the question, why bother?

But as soon as that quivering mass of doubt that sits in the back of the collective mind of perfectionists started to shift and stir, it provoked a disturbance elsewhere. Further to the front, but mostly in the middle.

It was my knight in shining armour. A calm and a patient fellow, who rose up from his slumber in response to gentle summons from my closest friends and family members.

He mounted his horse, faced the murky mass in the back of my mind, and said, gently but firmly, “Don’t be an idiot.”

(He has since gained the material form of a small fluffy toy rabbit—a gift from a friend, who listened patiently while I had a panic attack an hour before submitting my proposal. He now sits on my desk, a sage and comforting reminder of the real world.)

It was a timely reminder that there’s nothing quite like asking yourself “Why am I doing this? Should I just give up?” to really bring it home.

I’m doing this because I want to, because I enjoy it, because I believe my project is worthwhile, and, yes, also because I have been fortunate enough to be granted a stipend by means of which to do it.

So I need to maintain perspective. I’m working on a reframe, because the big picture is where things get overwhelming, but it’s also where some of the most important changes can be made. Probably the most important change is my attitude.

Now, I didn’t know I had a knight in me. I’m a short man of an intellectual bent and not terribly much physical strength, so acts of heroism are not something I identify with.

And I guess it may seem a little extreme to describe putting things back in perspective as an act of heroism.

But the anxious perfectionists among you will probably recognise the domino effect: doubt overpowers the desire to succeed, the fear of inadequacy overwhelms logical thought, and the result is pulverisation as the monster wakes from its slumber and begins to move.

So finding my little knight prepared to meet it head on was a pleasant surprise.

Even more surprising was the fact that the monster looked at him, decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and went back to sleep.

I could move again.

As a record of my research process, this blog will no doubt become labyrinthine: a complex map of tunnels and catacombs as I attempt to carve my way through the unhewn rock of my project. Like as not, it will become cobwebby, and at times be frightening, desolate and poorly lit. But I hope that if I mark these passages clearly, I will be able to prevent myself from sabotaging my own venture. I will also publish it here, because I personally have learned as much from watching the mistakes of others as I have from making mistakes of my own, so I hope that I will be able to provide you with something of interest or assistance or at least productive procrastination.

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