I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Even since I say Kyle MacLachlan over-act the above mantra, I’ve gone back to it when I ‘ve been afraid to do something. As November draws to a close, I can safely say I will not accomplish either of my goals for the Novel-in-a-Month project. As a matter of fact, I’ve done pretty much nothing. I have some great justifications and excuses too; I had a couple of sick kids; I was sick for a couple of days; busy at work; busy trying to keep the house clean and picked up and the list could keep going. All of it looks reasonable and all of it is…bullshit.
If you’ve been reading this blog or the other blog or if you know me, I’m a bit of a goal junkie or accomplishment junkie. I love to have goals, plans, points on the horizon to look toward. I completed a Ph. D., I’ve run two marathons (and counting) and I love to make lists and cross things out, sometimes a little too vigorously. But then there are those things, those projects, challenges that seem too big, too daunting for me to conquer. I thought by releasing to the twitterverse two of the most pressing ideas I would spur myself. Public accountability and personal shaming sometimes have that effect on me. Alas, not this time. My two greatest fears, since I was kid really, were greater than my otherwise strong determination.
With both projects, both fears become intertwined, but I would say the idea of getting my dissertation ready for publication is rooted in a fear of rejection. I know it’s weird, really at this point of my life I’ve been rejected loads of times; turned down for grad schools, turned down for jobs and the like. This is different though. This feels more personal. I put a lot of work into the dissertation and while finishing was the goal and it felt good, this next step is daunting. It means putting the work out there for everyone to see, or at least a much more objective and less vested editor. It has become a judgment of my work’s overall worth. It’s been two years since I finished and I’m still not ready for that sentence.
The other thing about the dissertation, that isn’t quite as fear based is I don’t see the overall worth of having it published. The career path that usually needs such action is pretty much out of picture for me, partly because it is a dying profession and partly because I’ve come to find out I don’t want that particular career, at least not the way it is designed now. So there is a little inertia mixed in, making a lovely malaise culminating in a general feeling of, “What’s the point?” Not exactly the best place to be.
If you really want to see what keeps me up at night though, the monster under the bed, it is the other project I foolishly mentioned as part of my November goal. I’ve had the idea for a screenplay, this particular idea no less, for at least eleven years. I won’t go more into detail because I’m a bit of a superstitious monkey, but it isn’t the worst idea for a movie. I’ve probably written the opening two scenes five different times…and no further.
It really is daunting, writing something from whole cloth. All of my other writing, academic, blogs and the like are kind of like painting by numbers, or at least performing a set piece of music. Hell, even the screenplay is historically based, so it isn’t too far outside of my comfort zone. I just can’t push further ahead because I’m afraid, afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of the end game, of sending it off to a studio and getting rejected. Honestly, I know that is how it will end. No, with each passing month, year even, my great fear of not finishing this idea, of not being able to do it, bears down even harder. It isn’t the failure of the outcome, it’s the fear of failure in the process, the work. Simply put, it’s the idea I can’t do something that is doing it, a truly personal failure.
I get how irrational all of that reads, but it doesn’t make it go away. Also, and this isn’t another excuse, but both projects, even if vastly different, are freakin’ hard! I’m just not that into a lot of hard work for very limited results. If it comes down to satisfaction, I’m pretty satisfied with a hundred clicks on a blog post and a really good Civilization game. And yet, both projects, and more if I’m being truly honest, still lord over me. After playing Batman: Arkam Origins for an hour I feel like I just ate three donuts. Then I reflect on what I might have done, then I go and eat three actual donuts, so the current system isn’t working so hot.
So what do I do? I don’t know, maybe up the accountability factor? Post follow-up blogs on my progress? Make an Excel spreadsheet charting my progress? (don’t laugh, that worked for my comp exams and the dissertation.) Will something like this help? Probably not. Public shaming only gets me so far. At some point, if I’m really being honest, I just need to work.