One of my goals here at the Daily Chicana is to live up to the title of my blog: to post new writing on a daily basis. Yesterday I had every intention of writing something substantial, but, as you can see by my having posted only a link to a Cure song on YouTube, I never got around to it. Today I am going to explain–or rather, confess, in the spirit of my fellow blogger, Academic Sins (tagline: “O, my dissertation, I am heartfully sorry for having neglected you”)–what went wrong yesterday and every day.
Every weekday morning, I make a pot of coffee (insofar as “a pot” can be made by a tiny 5-cup machine) and as I set out the sugar and milk, I harbor visions of myself as A Writer, a romantic figure sitting at her desk, hair glistening in the delicate light of dawn, fingers flying over the keys as she stares intensely at the laptop screen, full of energy and great ideas.
Instead, what usually happens is I don’t even roll out of bed until about 9am or so (hey, I’m still on sabbatical). As I make breakfast, I think, “I’ll just watch an episode of [Mad Men, Top Chef, Smash, Intervention or 16 and Pregnant] while I eat. It will just be 45 minutes. Then I’ll get started on my work.”
When the show is over, I spend another extended period of time checking out the TV blogs and reviews at Entertainment Weekly, Slate and Salon [especially if I've just watched Mad Men]. This is part of the problem of being a Cultural Studies type of scholar: watching TV can sort of be justified as “research” if I spend time contemplating representations of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.
Then it is time to log into facebook, the greatest time-suck of all. Many of my fb friends are scholars who post links to interesting news stories, blogs, websites, etc. that relate to areas of my teaching, research, politics of higher ed, immigration, you name it. So facebook is a big ol’ rabbit hole even when I’m not looking at my friends’ latest vacation and/or baby pics.
After fb–and the ensuing snuggle time with my dog–and in a half-hearted attempt to get focused on my real work, I take a look at what’s happening on ProfHacker, the Job Advice articles at the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Lifehacker. I’m a sucker for productivity porn, the name for what happens when you’re so determined to become more efficient that researching how to be efficient becomes the new way to procrastinate. I am always on the lookout for new software, note taking methods, planners, to-do lists, office products…the list goes on and on. Despite many years of experience knowing there’s no single cure-all other then devotion to a daily writing practice, I still cling desperately to the belief that there is a magic product out there that will turn me into the world’s most prolific writer.
And so that’s how my day goes, until it’s time to make dinner. At times, I’ll console myself by thinking, “I can do some writing after dinner, then reward myself with a glass of wine.” Yet I go on to reason, “Well, I always do my best work in the morning, so let me just get a fresh start tomorrow. Mmm…I’ll get up early, make some coffee, sit at my desk, then start writing.” [Proceed to paragraph three above, and repeat.]
Fridays are even more of a challenge because now that I live on my own, I no longer have the budget or need for cleaning ladies, so I have to set aside a couple of hours to clean the house and do laundry. I procrastinated on these tasks yesterday by doing all of the usual wasteful activities and adding to it a stroll through Netflix, which is how I found myself at 4:30pm having accomplished absolutely no writing or cleaning but instead sitting through a random and needless viewing of the French film Mozart’s Sister.
I entered a panic: “Where has my day gone?!” I began scurrying through the house, doing a frantic cleaning. I was going to be late for meeting up with my boyfriend. Then it hit me: “I still gotta post something on my blog!” I didn’t want to let myself down with yet another of my goals. So a quick song had to suffice.
Sharing this confession wasn’t exactly the cathartic experience I envisioned. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing. But I’m hoping that an open acknowledgment of my extreme procrastination methods is necessary step towards remaking my writing “process.” A friend once recommended a major shift in my thinking: Rather than consider academic writing something I had to do and therefore increase the likelihood that it would feel like a burden, I should instead think of writing as something I deserve to do, an activity that brings real pleasure. Many of my colleagues honor the writing process in this way; they are happy to wrap up their grading for the semester because it means that they can finally dedicate all of their time to their writing projects. Their cheerful fb status updates say, “Just about to play my favorite song and clear my head for writing.” I yearn to be among them. Maybe one day I will be. Just as soon as I turn off the damn TV!