I have a book chapter that is due at the end of this month. I had originally proposed to write it around wondering what ‘social video is’. Something I’ve been wanting and meaning to write for a couple of years and this was an opportunity to do it. Then things changed a bit, partly because the chapter was to be a conference presentation and so on, and so I wanted to write it around another idea I’ve been mulling around relationality, archives, and assemblage. In other words I got bored with one and wanted to do the other. I hadn’t written the first, so really, until I got into it it really is a mistake to think there isn’t much there. (Often the sense that it is boring conceals the actual difficulty and significance of the work to be done.)
So late in the piece I sent through the new proposal, and it got the nod. Except it is late May and the chapter is due at the end of May. At times like this the stress and anxiety of having to start, and finish, work that is going to end up in a book is very high. So I then invent other ways of not starting. It doesn’t take much. Then, at some moment, I realise that I have to do it, that after years of repeating this cycle (where I also know that once I start writing it will generally go quite well) I really have to take some responsibility for myself. So I start. I just begin writing, and then in [Scrivener](http://literatureandlatte.com/) put in the target (7000 words), and give myself until the end of the first week of June to finish, and let Scrivener work out the rest. 400 words a day, that’s it. The relief is enormous, particularly when I realise that I’ve already written 500 words in a couple of sessions.
On the other hand, once the editors said yes to my new proposal, all of a sudden the original one looked interesting again. Something here perhaps about the grass always being greener? Also about one of the methods I use to not actually do something? Perhaps. Probably.
Things to notice here.
* I granted myself a short extension. Because I know the editors will nod their heads, I know that others will be late (academics who submit work on time are less common than those who will be late), I know that if I ask for the time they will give it as editors much prefer knowing that it is coming rather than wondering where it has got to, and that they also said yes quite late in the piece.
* That I procrastinated, deferred, and that the longer this went on for the more extreme the anxiety (and guilt) became. It is easy for this to become debilitating (in my own case I once did this for a major anthology to the point where at the 11th hour I apologised and withdrew, I haven’t been asked again).
* That this anxiety is quite normal, and healthy, but if you leave it to grow it is not.
* That just breaking it down into smaller parts makes something big (bloody hell, 7000 word chapter, where to start, how), manageable and approachable.
* That you can imagine something isn’t worth doing, but the test is in doing it.