I’ve taken some of the last week to try to practice what Boice calls “actively waiting” in preparation for writing on a project I’ve been avoiding. See the project plan here and a discussion about “actively waiting” here. Some of my thoughts on this exercise from the last week are below the fold.
Full disclosure: I didn’t manage to do the 10 minutes every day, but I think I did it more days than I didn’t do it. I think.
I found it pretty tough to just sit with my notes “in the moment.” I kept worrying that I was “doing it wrong” — did I have the right notes? Should I open up the old data files on the computer? Should I be reading the text, or just thinking about it? In addition, I kept grasping little ideas, and then flitting to other ideas, and sometimes following the network of ideas to something completely not associated with the writing project I was supposed to be contemplating. Bad dog. My therapist would say this was more evidence of my mind sabotaging me, allowing me to avoid thinking about this project. I actually think that is true – the paper I have been trying to focus on is the gender part of my dissertation, and it’s too important to get wrong. As a result, I can’t even start thinking about it – my mind becomes plagued by self-doubt and imposter fears, and I retreat into avoidance. Much simpler that way.
I did find useful the practice of sitting on my bed first thing in the morning and telling myself that I was going to find 10 minutes to think about this gender paper. I tried to think about where I would work on it, or when during my busy day. And the days I did “precommit” were days where I was more likely to actually find the time. Making the time slot only 10 minutes made it more likely too; anything longer and I was more likely to go find lunch, and only 10 min made me feel virtuous, as even though it was only 10 minutes, it was 10 minutes more than I would have done otherwise. I also tried to do the waiting chunk in the morning, right when I got in to my office (or before I came in, even) and before I let the computer open up the email. Then I felt like I could feel virtuous for the majority of the day.
Over the week, with these short 10 minute chunks, the prospect of picking this project back up is less scary. I sat myself down in front of my printed dissertation, and flipped through the pages, reminding myself of what I wrote and the decent transplantable ideas and chunks that already exist on the page. I also allowed myself the luxury of writing different ideas associated with the project down, and so when I returned to the 10 minute-spot the next day, I could remember where I left off. And now I have a page of notes of ideas on how to start, whereas last week I was still strongly in avoidance.
My new problem is that I want to try the 10 minutes of focus on a couple of other projects too, to help advance them. But I think then I’ll get back into the avoidance mode on this particular project. So I think I had better keep them on the back burner for a bit.
What are others’ experiences about trying to practice “actively waiting?”