Resistance is Futile (and deadlines are looming).

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit”. ~Aristotle

I have a little card on my desk that has this quote on it and I come back to it again and again (and again). I fully admit to being very distractible. Sometimes I try and go easy on myself… to give myself a break…I mutter to myself, “well, you’ve got a lot on your plate… all these kids…elderly parents to tend to…an almost finished PhD to… just finish already… several teaching gigs… midlife…and just life-life… You have a lot to be distracted by….how can you not be distracted?!” And, well, yeah, sure. I guess those things are all true… But! Really! I am REALLY just easily distracted. I WANT to focus but I am weak, there is stuff to read and look at and fiddle-fart around with. As I have professed on many occasions I am a big ol’ procrastinator— yet, still, I get up every day determined that today I will be better. I know it is a practice—I just need to continue to practice staying focused, I practice daily, fighting against my urge to procrastinate. It is a habit that I will forever need to be mindful of, and there is no easy fix. I recently ripped through the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield on a morning that I had dedicated to working through my PhD revisions— This is nothing new to me— procrastinating by reading books about how not to procrastinate but, I have to say, this procrastination session was particularly enlightening and dare I say, useful. Pressfield’s book resonated deeply with me because his theory revolves around what he considers to be the enemy of creativity; resistance. Procrastination is the result of resistance and fuelled by fear. Fear, Pressfield attests, can be a good thing— it indicates to us that something is important to us— and in my case, this is true. While I do tend to also procrastinate about doing things like cleaning the bathtub and folding the laundry these are not the things that have fear attached to them— my PhD, the play and the article I am writing , these are the things that have fear firmly attached to them and as Pressfield suggests “…the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance.” (2002 40) And, well, yes, the degree of fear I feel from avoiding scrubbing my tub is significantly lower than my fear of not getting my PhD revisions done in time.
If I am what I repeatedly do then I want to believe that acknowledging and wrestling resistance must simply become a habit, and part of my practice as an academic, artist and writer. The wrestling takes many forms. Plain old willpower is one way to do it, removing distractions is another. I have been using the website blocker Freedom— which helps. I had read that Zaide Smith used something similar and I was, of course, thrilled to know I was not alone (and in very good company) in my distractedness. It helps. And I will actually laugh out loud to myself when I habitually click on one of my blocked websites while I’m in a Freedom session only to find a green screen with a butterfly on it staring back at me. Resistance is futile, I suppose, and deadlines are looming.

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Censors Working Overtime

“Censor the body, and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard”. (Cixous, 1975)
This quote from Hélène Cixous (The Laugh of the Medusa) has, without a doubt, been my guiding light throughout the last three years of my PhD journey, and if I really take a moment to think deeply about it, in my life-journey in general. As a voice practitioner, writer, academic, feminist, these words perfectly sum up what I try to achieve every day. To tell my truth. To live and work as my truest self. And I know that the surest way to get there is through the body. To quote my colleague Noah Drew  “If the body isn’t free, the breath can’t be free and if the breath can’t be free the voice can’t be free.” Voice, in this context, includes not just my physical voice but my voice as it appears on the page. Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of being a Doctoral Researcher is truly owning “your body must be heard”, each day I have to sit down with the attitude; “I have something new, innovative and important to say!” I struggle with it constantly. It is of course why Impostor Syndrome is so prevalent in academia. Who am I to declare “My body must be heard?!” Who in their right mind cares about what my body has to say? To completely mangle perfectly good XTC lyrics; “Censors working overtime Trying to tell the difference ‘tween the goods and grime turds and treasure and there’s one, two, three, four, five…” That just about sums up my final slog towards submission…these final weeks, as I try to sort out my theories, my ideas… am I really contributing to the scholarship on this? Do I really know the difference between the “good and the grime” the “turds and the treasure”
I suppose I can only write myself. Turds and all. There is no one else.

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“I, too, overflow; … my body knows unheard-of songs.”~ Hélène Cixous

 

Take Aways from my freakin’ writing retreat–Day 3

  1. Realizing that I won’t get everything I wanted to get done, done… but also realizing that I STILL got more done than I would have if I hadn’t been here…
  2.  Also, “Why haven’t I done this before????” (oh, yeah, many children, 2 jobs…)
  3. Note to self; always bring more coffee than you think you will need — rationing coffee makes me anxious.
  4. Making a large pot of homemade soup and bringing only the soup, a loaf of wholegrain bread, a jar of peanut butter and a bit of fruit to my 4-day retreat so I won’t have to “fuss” with cooking, seemed like a really good, sensible and wholesome idea, but on day 3, I could care less about sensible and henceforth just ate a bag of microwave popcorn I found kicking around in the cupboard, (OK, so I ate TWO bags of microwave popcorn….)
  5. It is impossible to NOT have at least a few flashes of Kathy Bates in Misery showing up, while alone in a cottage, typing away furiously in a snowstorm.

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Notes from my mother-lovin’ PhD-thesis writing retreat- Day 2

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  1. Day one was super-successful (finished 2 chapters that I had been trying to crack since August)—I had high hopes for day 2 but have been feeling a bit stuck (although I must say, I still got more work done today than I would have at home— and the day is not done yet).
  1. The only living being I saw today was a chipmunk. I stared up at him in the tree above me, he then moved and all the snow on the branch he was perched on fell on my face. I also saw a snowplough down the road, although I did not see the being who was driving it… I can only assume there was an actual being driving it.
  1. Dance breaks are essential when on a writing retreat. There is the added bonus that teenaged children are not around, so no one will roll their eyes at you and walk out of the room.
  1. I took a shower in the middle of the afternoon with no other reason but to feel refreshed and get my second wind as I go into an evening of writing— what kind of hedonistic lifestyle am I living here???

Burn This *&$#@-Thesis Down Writing Retreat –Day 1

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4 days and a 40,000 word PhD thesis to write… Totally do-able right??

Of course, I am not starting from scratch- I’ve got about 30,000 words in a very messy, chaotic mess of a draft… I’m hoping being here (looks pretty ideal, right?) Will just push me over the “get this sucker done” huge wall that seems to be standing in my way.

Wish me luck.