Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The anxiety of beginning

I have an imminent deadline. I thought the deadline was in December, but I have just discovered that it is June. When I promise to contribute to something far away in the future, I somehow optimistically think that I can be dead by then so I don't have to worry. But there comes a moment when the deadline is approaching, and although it is still a bit away, panic is about to engulf me. I keep telling myself that my students are expected to write a 6,000-word essay in eight weeks, and if they can, why couldn't I, but it just doesn't work. This may be a consolation for the students, if they happen to read this, to know that the panic in front of a blank sheet of paper, or a blank computer screen as may be, is universal. No matter how experienced you are, this blankness, this threshold, this last breath before you plunge into deep waters is an inevitable part of academic writing. If you don't get it, something is wrong.

I have been postponing this task for a long while now. I have of course been thinking about it, and I know exactly how I want to write it, and I know all facts and don't have to do any research. So it's just a matter of sitting down and starting. Prior to my trip last week I kept telling myself that there was no point starting because I would be away and interrupted, and yesterday and the day before yesterday I invented a lot of small things I absolutely had to do before I had my mind clear for the project. Today there are some urgent emails to respond to, and some recommendation letters, and perhaps I should write that review which is not due until April, but it would be good to have it done before I start... And what am I doing right now if not escaping from the blank screen. 

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