So the truth is, I’ve had terrible writer’s block. Like horrific, mind-bending writer’s block that has made me call home incessantly to get my dad’s sports analogy confidence booster talk, over and over again. In case you’re wondering, it goes a little something like this:
“[Embarrassing family nickname deleted] you’re like Dan Marino. He was the greatest
quarterbacks, ever. But when you asked him about how he did what he did, he couldn’t
tell you. He just stepped back and threw the ball. You’re Dan Marino. You can’t explain
how you do what you do. You just do what you gotta do.”
Perhaps to logical academics, this makes absolutely no sense. I mean, “do what you gotta do?!” What in God’s name does that mean? But for me, it is exactly the kind of pep talk I need: ambiguous, non-specific, related to pretty much everything and nothing – exactly the opposite of my actual research which requires me to be so specific about what I write, how I write, and my timeline for writing, that I find myself buckling under the pressure to be on-point about everything I’ve ever thought.
It seems, in this pressure cooker that is PhD school the one thing we aren’t good at is just stepping back and chucking the ball. In other words, the idea of putting forth an argument that sounds a little cockeyed at first, but could produce fruitful conversations with a little help from some HASTAC friends can get lost in the attempt to have the most super awesomest idea, like, ever – which is exactly why I’ve not written anything in awhile. The idea of being incomprehensible to a giant online community is enough to make you erase your screen name and curl up under the bed covers like a roly poly bug.
But even without any good posts, I’ve had a pretty good humdinger of an idea or two. Some days, I just think of all the things I’ve read on this site and how I could incorporate them into my work if I just had better technical skills. Other days, I’m hoping my muse is hiding in the back of my closet (which I’ve started cleaning for the fourth time this year, in an attempt to make procrastination purposeful).
And this evening, I realized that part of a collaborative community is to work through the stops and starts together. This isn’t a major revelation, mind you, but it was big enough to get me back to writing. So while this post has nothing to do with technology or my actual research, it does, I think, address some of the issues us grad students have about (un)productivity and whether just daydreaming about writing that great paper (or post) is sometimes as productive as physically writing, in terms of getting back on track as a participating community member. Sometimes, anxiety winds up dominating this entire PhD game. In those cases, we may be better throwing a Hail Mary and hoping everything ends well.