Monthly Total: 39993
There is an irony with these monthly recaps, I find, which is that the entire point of doing them is to give myself perspective, encourage me to think of my progress as something to measure over an extended period of time instead of just when I’m feeling particularly self-critical – and yet whenever I do one of these recaps, it’s kind of like I’ve never done one before. The sheer sense of accomplishment – yeah, the novelty I think has worn off, but that just leaves me with this clear sense of satisfaction for what I’ve gotten done, and the fact that I’m continuing this process of keeping track of it.
I did a lot last month. It should be this month, but honestly this past week was murderous, life happens, we’re doing the recap for last month this month.
Mostly, and I’m very grateful for this, I focused not just on my ability to write, but myself as a writer. Because speaking of perspective, I needed that “detox” weekend, I needed to reconnect, check in with myself, all the self-help tropes – I still need more, honestly, and I’m starting to get some ideas about how to continue with that work. But while I did get a bit melancholic about not being able to re-create the existential bliss of that weekend for the rest of the month, looking back on it now, I realise that I need to be focusing on moving forward. Having perspective on the past, acknowledging how I’ve spent my time and giving myself proof that I am not the living embodiment of the void and never get anything done – these are good, important things for me. I feel like with Weekly Words, I’ve got that part covered. But the forward-looking part is one that needs developing.
This is something I learnt from the last three days of intensive, almost traumatically so, marking that I did. It’s nothing that anybody who’s ever marked for a paper hasn’t experienced; honestly I’ve lived a charmed marking life. But in being forced to confront a tight schedule and make it work, I realised a couple of things.
- Fuck am I glad it didn’t go on any longer than it did.
- Fuck did I need to get my shit sorted long before this event forced me to do it.
Like, this hasn’t cured my anxiety and depression or anything, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on what I have the capacity to do. Here’s the thing: as difficult as the last three days of marking were, they were difficult partially because of how haphazardly I approached the first four – basically, I didn’t approach them at all, I just kind of winged it, and lo and behold it didn’t work. I was not prepared, and coming to that realisation has made me aware of how prevalent that theme is in all of the areas of my life where I feel the most anxious, the most helpless and clueless and weak. It is something that I need to address.
And, in this situation, it is also something that I did address. It is frustrating to not be able to pinpoint the moment where the change occurred between the paralytic self-disgust of the Tuesday where I got almost nothing done and the following Wednesday where suddenly I just had a plan somehow – but I did. I got a plan. And it fucking worked. I prepared myself, on the fly, and without going into too much detail it went exactly as well as I hoped, in my wildest dreams, it might go, in less-than-ideal circumstances that were not part of those wildest dreams.
What I’ve taken away from this is that I can actually deal with difficult situations that I’m not necessarily prepared for better than I give myself credit for. I can trust myself to get shit done, even in a bind. Which, obviously, is very nice to know about myself, and I’m still kind of still processing it and getting used to it.
The other thing is that I really like having a schedule to organise myself around, actually. I was totally consumed with just marking, but I worked breaks into that schedule to do my own thing, and after it was over I missed the clarity of that structure – and felt frustrated that I hadn’t taken better advantage of it to get more of my own shit done. I just watched a bunch of YouTube (not all bad though, I do want to get better at chilling out); I didn’t have much brain-power left over for writing (though I did get some done, as you will have seen from the last post), but I wanted to get some reading done, and more than that I wanted to do plenty of stuff that was purely recreational. I wanted to watch some shows; I wanted to mess around with some fun things, and it didn’t get done.
So when I realised that the next round of marking would be coming in less than a week after finishing this round …
I got pretty excited.
And I think that’s deeply messed-up, but I am owning it, sticking to it, and intending to use it to my advantage. I need to test this out more. I need to see how effective I can be at organising my time to get my shit done, both the stuff that I am obligated to do because I’m being paid to do it, and the stuff that I want to do because I fucking want to do it. I am too accustomed to putting off my own wants and curiosities – I need to break that habit. And I think now that committing to a schedule of some kind might be the best way to do it.
Because, after all, that’s what Weekly Words is all about, albeit in a quite flexible way. It’s not organsied down to the hour, which is why I think it works, and I don’t think I could ever make that work for an extended period of time without getting paid for it. But looking back on those three glorious days of intensive marking, and after talking to my co-writing friend (as in the friend who I happen to co-write with; she’s not just a co-writing friend) about it, she pointed out that, actually, that plan didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. It felt that way to me, but I’ve been doing Weekly Words for 3 months now, and I’ve seen the results. I’ve proven that I can organise myself – I just haven’t really thought about applying the same principles to anything other than my personal writing projects.
But it’s clear to me now that that’s exactly how I can break out of my years-long rut of denying myself basic pleasures of being a living organism, like doing shit that I want to do because I want to fucking do it. So, as I’ve brought up a few times in Weekly Words, I am now giving myself other goals across the weeks and months besides writing – time-off goals, the “day off” idea re-imagined in more concrete detail. Just like I don’t judge myself (or try not to) for how much I do or don’t get written in one day, I’m going to be making goals for myself that don’t have to be done on X day, but rather sometime during a longer period – a week, as I have already established – because sometimes the day just runs away from you, or other obligations come up and you have to deal with them. This way, I can be committed to taking care of myself while avoiding being needlessly pedantic about when, exactly, it will happen – just that it needs to happen within a certain time-frame. It seems to be the system that best works for me, and what I can control, I find easiest to control with this method.
And these are all ideas that I’ve had and talked about before, but not until now did any of it really feel … well, real. I was unprepared, and then I was, and now I know that I can be, and that’s very new. So new I’ll probably have to talk to my therapist about it, when I eventually get one. I now have a clearer understanding of my capacity to do things, and how much my mindset affects that capacity. I went from panicking and self-loathing to a purely task-oriented mindset – again, not sure how that switch happened, but it did, and it worked. And it’s given me perspective, too. I know now, looking back, that as well as things ended up going, they could have gone so much better if I had been more prepared – I probably couldn’t have been, but I’ve had the experience now that gives me the opportunity to get it right next time. And I’m craving that.
But there’s another element to why I’m so excited to throw myself into the grinder again, test my capacity further and see how far I can push the principles I’ve learnt and the better habits I’m still developing through Weekly Words when the next batch of marking comes around. What I’ve got now with Weekly Words is good. It works. But it’s becoming too safe – it’s still effective, but I’m feeling myself settling into it, leaning back on it, and consequently not reaching out for anything else, not pushing myself to continued developing my capacity. I think there’s definitely something to be said for acknowledging and being content with what you have – but for me, that contentment often becomes a trap, a crutch that, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I don’t need.
Yet the fact that this ability to get my shit organised has become such a fast habit of mine – that makes me optimistic that I can build other good habits as well, with the same process. I am looking forward to the next round of marking because of what I think – what I hope – it will do for me, and what it will do to me. How it will change my habits into habits that I’m happy to have. So that when I’m done with marking, I get to benefit from having more focus and structure in my life. Because I have shit that I want to do, that I keep myself from doing, and I realise now based on those disastrous first four days of marking that it’s because of how unprepared I feel for it. I think that kind of sums up all of my various neuroses and anxieties in life: I don’t feel prepared for life in general. But I know now that a lot of that has to do with me not doing anything to try to prepare.
So I’m going to get used to preparing myself, whatever it takes – and I’m realising that, actually, it doesn’t take as much as I seem to think that it does.
But I still have to do it, and today as I write this, I reflect on that. I got almost nothing done today (the 4th) writing-wise, or anything else-wise for that matter; I just watched YouTube all day. It felt all right; maybe I still need to recover a bit from the intensity of marking. But it’s definitely not how I want to be spending every day. Not anymore. I want something more now, and that’s new too.
I definitely want to get used to it – and used to following through.