Okay, here’s the thing: I really have to work over the holiday break.
I’m not going to lie, I would be happier eating warm cookies, drinking cold milk, and watching old movies — but the angel on my shoulder says, “you’d better work on that thesis if you know what’s good for ya, kid.”
(Did I mention my winged advisor is a wise guy named Lou?)
It’s not that I haven’t worked hard this semester — my roommate, for one, can attest to my self-chastising strategies — but I did spread myself too thinly this past semester. As a result, my thesis project has thawed in a shadow beside the back-burner, and now I have to make up for it before the spring version of Fabiola curses the useless yuletide loafer.
I was thinking about this while clearing my email backlog today (classic stalling) and came across this topical gem from a friend, who recommended a read of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Imp of the Perverse
Here’s an excerpt about procrastination:
We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow; and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle.
To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly.
The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict within us, – of the definite with the indefinite – of the substance with the shadow. But, if the contest has proceeded thus far, it is the shadow which prevails, – we struggle in vain.
The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long over-awed us. It flies – it disappears – we are free. The old energy returns. We will labour now.
Alas, it is too late!
Gee, thanks Poe. You sure know how to give me hope for the future. I can add this to my secret stash of comics that come eerily close to describing how I feel, but also make me think it’s normal to hide under a table in fetal position — an approach I’m pretty sure my thesis supervisors wouldn’t be keen on.
So, in an attempt to resist the culture cache that rationalizes my stalling — and to reach out to my fellow thesis-ninjas — here are some notes from “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” by C. Wright Mills, who has a few more constructive things to say:
“By keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications, show yourself either how foolish these feelings or ideas are, or how they might be articulated into productive shape.”
“Empirical projects necessary to my kind of work must promise, first, to have relevance for their first draft…they have to confirm it in its original form or they have to cause its modification. Or to put it more pretentiously, they must have implications for theoretical constructions. Second, the projects must be efficient and neat and, if possible, ingenious. By this I mean they must promise to yield a great deal of material in proportion to the time and effort they involve.”
“You do not really have to study a topic you are working on…once you are into it, it is everywhere…you must cling to such vague ideas and notions, if they are yours, and you must work them out. For it is in such forms that original ideas, if any, almost always first appear.”
“One of the things meant by ‘being soaked in the literature’ is being able to locate the opponents and friends of every available viewpoint…know when you ought to read and when you ought not to.”
“In many academic circles today anyone who tries to write in a widely intelligible way is liable to be condemned as a ‘mere literary man’ or, worse still, ‘a mere journalist.’” (This is just cheeky of me to include, but … it is what it is!)
“To write is to raise a claim for the attention of readers…To write is to claim for oneself enough status to be read.”