Saturday, 12 February 2011

How to avoid cleaning

You know the feeling. There's that report to be written, and it makes sense (doesn't it?) to work at home, away from all the distractions of social interaction (moaning) with other researchers, the worried look on the face of your supervisor, and the mental paralysis that seems to beset you when you sit at your desk in the postgraduate office.

OK. Up, healthy breakfast of porridge and orange juice ("not from concentrate"), so you've made obeisance to the gods of woo rather than commit the "full English" sin.

Time to start. But first check the rolling news, to make sure it's still rolling. Ten quick minutes to top up your "well-informed" quotient. Not for you the trap of daytime TV.

At the desk, and it's just after 10. True, it's a whole hour after the rest of the population starts work, but then you've read somewhere recently that the first hour in most offices is pissed up the wall with the ritual moan about how crap the public transport system was this morning and endless repeats of the phrase, "Leaves on the line..." followed by a cynical laugh.

You begin. Open the file. Read what you wrote last Friday. Don't like it. Change the font to see if Garamond renders your draft magically superior to anything else you have ever written - or even read. It doesn't. Funny... You thought it was pretty good at close of play last week. You start. This section is going to be all about how and why you chose your research methodology. "Because my supervisor bloody well told me to," rumbles the inner voice, but you can't write that down, can you?

It doesn't matter what you may be writing. It could be tough or easy stuff. All that seems to happen is that you stare at the blank screen and hate your life. With an inner shout of joy, you remember that you have to wash up the breakfast dishes. You embrace this thankfully as the "real reason" that you can't concentrate. You wash the dishes and while you are forming an explanation for the reluctance of your most aggressive scourer to do anything more than slip ineffectually over the porridge remnants in the saucepan, you think of just the perfect words for the first paragraph. You think you'll remember them when you are back at the desk. You can't.

Maybe, you reason, if I do some more cleaning, more perfect and elegant sentences will form themselves in my mind. You clean the whole bloody place. End of the day and nothing has been drafted, but your place is surgically clean.

Cure: accept reality. Your first attempt at any draft is bound to be a bit rubbish. Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter at all.

As long as you get your thoughts organised, just write anything! As long as it's to the point. And when you've written it, stop. You'll go back to your draft in a couple of days and make it a lot better, but probably never quite reaching your ridiculous standards of perfection.

No comments:

Post a Comment