Wednesday, April 1, 2009

moving away from panic

Long story short, I am on a very aggressive deadline with my dissertation. I am in the final few weeks of trying to complete the full draft to submit to my chair. I had spoken with her on Monday and it was clear to me that this is a make-or-break week. If I write and complete Chapter Five and make significant headway on revising Chapter Four, I will make my deadline. If not, we will have to reschedule my defense date, etc (this would not be the end of the world, but I have several reasons for wanting to defend in May as has been my goal).

So, I woke up yesterday morning and said to myself, "today I have to write the first section of Chapter Five." I thought, "I have struggled with how to do this part and today I MUST. If I can't do it today, everything will fall apart, I won't make my deadline", yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then I thought to myself, this puts me in a lousy frame of mind to write. I'm getting into a panic. I'm putting a ton of pressure on myself. How will I write when I am this tense?

So, I decided to try to move away from the panic. I didn't tell myself "you can't panic" (that still sounds pretty tense!). Instead I thought, if I were going to sit and tell a few people about my data, who would be good company for this day? These needed to be people who are good listeners and patient, people who give me good energy. I thought a of few good friends who are fantastic listeners and want all the details. And I thought of my grandmother who was always a calming presence and who was supremely confident in me. I spent the next while, as I got through my pre-writing morning (eating breakfast, walking the dog, etc) thinking about sharing the story of my data with these people. By the time I sat down to write, I was in a much more calm and confident place, and I had a terrific and productive writing day.

I'm not saying this approach will always work, however it did for me yesterday so now I share it with you. Next time you start to feel overwhelmed or overly anxious, create an image of who would be good company for the day, and try to move away from the panic...

Until next time,

photo by HLS

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful suggestion. I tend to get immobilized by panic, and I like the idea of imagining that my words on the page are those that I would speak to the excellent listeners in my life. A question for you -- how do you discipline yourself to maintain your routine, daily commitments (walking the dog, sitting down for a breakfast, posting to your blog, etc.) in the midst of such intense pressure? Taking care of myself in this way seems to fly out the window as soon as I feel overwhelmed. Intellectually, I know that maintaining a routine of self-care will lead to a better final product, but in the moment when the work calls to me, I can't seem to "reason with myself."


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