what day I'm on in this horrible countdown, definitely don't want to know how many days are left!

Personal note to Mom -- the rest of you can skip it if you want to: 
(Before I write this, I just need to put in a disclaimer for my mom because she reads these things, freaks out, and the calls me immediately, sure that I'm either on the verge of offing myself or on the edge of going postal at the post office or something, and then her worry adds to the whole pressure of everything, cause, you know, she's my mom, and I don't want to worry her.  So, Mom, chill.  I'm ok.  I just need to vent.  I'd recommend that you don't read this post. If you do, I'm gonna regret telling you about this blog!)

I'm sitting at home in a panic.  Serious panic.  I keep getting these nagging emails from the editors of this volume that I've agreed to do, (What?  It's only 2 years late, sheesh.  Can't they just Chill?)  and I'm totally panicked about this stupid freaking article.  So much so that I'm becoming paralyzed, a little paranoid, and having a bit of a wig out today. 

I realized that it is really hindering my progress on the dissertation -- I'm so worried about Getting It Right for this article, because god knows, the world is going to see it and judge it so I can't make ANY mistakes because it is the first real thing I will have published and it is going to be a pretty important volume in my field, so it must be right and perfect and not totally stupid and fucked up.  

In the face of this need for total perfection (OH, and perfection really freaking FAST!!!) I just shut down.  I spent the morning hiding in a novel and the afternoon staring at the computer in a bit of a tizzy.  It sucks.   And, the strange thing?  I kind of just want to write the freaking chapter and forget all about this article. 

But before all the well-meaning folk out there tell me to do just that, I have two important reasons for doing it, one selfish and one selfless.  

Selfless reason:  If I don't do this article, the volume won't be published.  There are an unspecified number of other historians depending on me to do it.  And they're all done, it is just down to me.  So if I fuck up, I fuck up other people, not just myself. 

Selfish reason: I don't have any publications, really, so I need this for the tenure track.  If I don't publish, I'll lose my job. 

But in a gordian knot-like situation if I don't write this article, I'll lose my job.  If I don't finish my dissertation, I'll lose my job.  But if I spend all of my time working on this article, I won't finish my dissertation, and I'll lose my job.  But if I spend all of my freaking time reading novels because it is one way of handling a crippling panic attacks, I won't finish any damned thing and I'll lose my job.  

How's that for pressure?  Shit, no wonder I'm freaked out.   

Plus, to add insult to injury this morning I sat on my glasses while on the couch reading said stupid novel, so I've been walking around all day squinting like Mr. Magoo from those old cartoons that you can probably find on YouTube because everything is on YouTube, although I prefer Hulu, myself.  

Where was I?  Oh yes, in a rant. 

So here is where I stand.  I have 23 pages of stuff that will probably work in the article with a little tinkering.  They are also the bulk of Chapter 5 and as I tinker with them, I'll still be tinkering with chapter 5.  On Saturday I wrote a rough draft of an introduction to all of this material and then spent Sunday ripping it apart.  Hence the panic, I think.  I now find myself with not much to show for a whole weekend's work.  Oh, and plus today.    ARRGHH!!! 

And, I've got all this other shit to do, right?  Class prep for the fall (I'm teaching a new freshman class) committee stuff for this group I'm working with, not to mention the hundreds of emails that people have sent me that I haven't replied to because every new email feels like the last little straw that just might kill me.  

Well, thanks for listening.  I appreciate the forum in which to vent my worst fears and to confess my deepest weaknesses.  I'm going to try to calm down and do a little work before I go get the Gadlet.  Who, incidentally, learned to sit up from a lying down position all on her own little self in the middle of the night last night.  She let out this huge cry at 3 a.m., so Spousal Unit went in to check on her and there she was sitting up in the bed!  I think she'd gotten up there by herself but couldn't figure out how to get back down.  It was adorable.  Even if it was 3 a.m.  

She's the one thing right now that isn't making me panic.  Isn't that funny, since I spent 9 months panicking about her, absolutely sure that she would bring all of this stress to my life? 


At 6:31 PM Anonymous said...

Stewgad, calm down. The damned article will just have to wait, because those historians who are waiting for the volume? Those will not loose their jobs if you are late. Dissertation first, then article. Prep for fall? Fake it, wing it, pretend that you know what you are talking about. That is LATER, after the dissertation. I know exactly what it feels like, but if you take away all other stuff apart from your daughter, including the committee, hell, just tell them you have got the flu, just push everything else aside, then you just have the dissertation, and yes it is hell, but the only way out is through it. I haven't got a clue if this is helping at all, or if this is just making you curl up into a ball and shout "lalalalala horrible stranger who doesn't even know me shuddup", but I don't know what else to tell you. Those emails? Can wait. Everything can wait, but not dissertation. The pain of sitting in front of a computer with full blast panic attacks? Done that, do that most days. And in the end I get a tiny tiny bit done, and it does not feel enough, but at least it is something. Don't panic sweetie, breathe.
Sending love and support, Kicki

At 9:20 PM Mimi said...

I seriously thought I was the only person who felt this way and coped by doing these things. So know at least that you are not at all alone and you are for sure not the only academic to feel this things and cope this way and hide in a novel and sit on your glasses.

Venting helps. It's like a ... um, *vent* for the panic to escape and the buzzing in your head to stop.

If it helps, here's a strategy: the three hour plan. Don't think even so much as a full day or you'll spin out into helpless calculation. Just think: "what can / should / will I do for the next three hours" A dissertation and an article are built from a collection of successful three hour plans. The key is to NOT EXTRAPOLATE FROM THE THREE HOURS (ie, don't think what's coming next or what's due or what will happen if you fail) Just do the three hours. And then do them again.

You can do it. I mean, I do it, and I feel exactly like you feel right now, a lot of the time. If I can do it, yeesh, then anyone can.

At 1:40 PM goodness gracious! said...

gawd i am like this too - i remember finally finally finishing up my undergrad thesis -- year 9 out of 10 possible, and i went though a mini what you are writing about now. now i'm about to start a phd program, and it is comforting to know that others out there in academia get stressed out like i do too. that top poster seemed to be right on, and the second one had good advice. i'm sure that you'll pull through, and it will feel so good, almost unreal, when it's all done!

At 11:07 AM j said...

And if you can't do 3 hours, do 1/2 hour. Or heck, 15 minutes. I read something about procrastination somewhere that talked about just sitting down and getting started for 15 minutes on whatever it is you are working on. If you do that often enough, you will eventually be done. (And usually I find the getting started is the hardest part - I usually end up writing for a few hours after I promise myself I only have to do 15 minutes).

Also, it sounds like you got a lot done this weekend, even though you feel like you don't have much to show for it. Writing a bunch and then tearing it apart gets you further than you were.

I'm know I'm just a stranger on the web, but I just want to throw my encouragement your way for what's it worth - you can totally do this. If you really feel like writing the article essentially means writing that chapter, then I'd argue getting the article out of the way is smart. You make progress on the diss as a by-product, and you get to have the mental relief of it being out of the way when you get it out. But yes, I like the advice of not looking too far ahead, and just keep plugging along.

Good luck!

At 9:49 PM spark said...

Rah rah rah for Stewgad!!!

I saw a baby t-shirt today that said "My mom is hot" on it and thought of you. :>

At 9:52 PM spark said...

P.S. I didn't like the color or I would TOTALLY have bought it for the gadlet. :>


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