Not Writing

Yesterday I had the goal of writing 1200 words of a chapter draft. But when I got to my office to work, I felt groggy and unmotivated. I couldn’t think clearly, I didn’t want to write, and I was afraid that anything I did write would end up deleted the second I re-read it. So I called up some advice from my Amazing Advisor: “If you can’t write, do something else.” But not just anything else–something related to what you’re working on that will need to be done at some point anyway. Take notes. Photocopy book chapters. Work on the bibliography. Format a chapter.

These are only a few of the stacks of research materials in my office. The floor between the trunk and the bookshelf is covered with piles of articles, and this is only one quarter of my office space.

It worked. Instead of writing, I filled my work session with productive activity: I took notes on a book I need to return the library, I assessed eight books I picked up from InterLibrary Loan and decided what I should photocopy, I organized my desk a little and worked on a footnote or two, I took a thinking walk. By the end of the time, my mind was back in the game. I had a sense of what I needed to do next, and I remembered a particularly good article that would be relevant to the section I needed to draft (and I even found the article in my piles of office clutter). When I came back to my desk after the kids were in bed, I blazed through 500 new words in record time.

This is advice I need to remember on those groggy days. Something is always better than nothing. And at the end of the project all those pesky little necessary tasks are already done.


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