Saturday, October 13, 2012

Halbouty Geosciences Building: An argument wiith perfectionism

(This is Stop #14 in the Texas A&M Building Writing Tour, my attempt to motivate myself on my dissertation by writing in every campus building before I graduate.)

Deliberately skipping a workshop to which I had RSVP’d….isn’t that a wonderful way to begin a Friday?

Actually, as it turns out, it meshes perfectly with the writing lessons I have learned today. This weekend, my Texas A&M writing family brought in a special guest: Dr. Dannelle Stevens of Portland State University. She was here to talk with us about how journaling can transform even the most unproductive stalled-out graduate student into a prolific academic writer. Of course, I immediately signed up. I registered for the 3-hour Saturday workshop, and also planned to attend this morning’s 9-11:30 session. I even cajoled my writing professor into letting me crash her advanced writing studio Friday afternoon, as Dr. Stevens was scheduled to visit them for a “fireside chat”. I briefly considered skipping my Friday night writing feedback group for the 5:30 pm seminar, but fortunately came to my senses just in time. The surest way to guarantee a journal-free life would be to spend 36 hours learning about journaling.

So why did I miss my Friday morning journaling workshop? Well, because I stayed up until 5 a.m. trying to perfect a paragraph I had been struggling with all week. I wanted to make it as flawless as possible so the Friday night feedback group could tear it apart.

In a rare instance of good decision-making, I decided 1.5 hours of sleep was not the best recipe for a fruitful day of learning about writing (especially when the writing-learning would span 13 hours, not including the 3 hours spent driving). So, I skipped the workshop and slept. I still made the afternoon writing studio. There, Dr. Stevens asked us to write a dialog with one of our “writing demons”. My demon of choice was….you guessed it, Perfectionism.

Demon P. and I had quite a conversation. He praised my efforts in seeking out writing mentors, and informed me I should try to be just like them. (Yep, including the mile-long vita full of publications). He lauded the research design classic I had referenced in my problem paragraph, and told me my writing should be just as clear. He reminded me that anything I wrote, for my blog or anything else, would be archived forever, to be perused by dissertation committees, deans, and college presidents. I’d better be careful to make it good.

I’m sure the dialog was supposed to end with me kicking Demon P. to the curb, never to be seen again. I don’t think it happened. I believe I nudged him out the door, though I don’t trust the latch…it’s not a real deadbolt, just one of those hook-and-eye thingies that wiggles a little, then eventually unscrews and comes off altogether.

However, it seems to be holding for now. With that in mind, I am determined to publish my Halbouty Building blog post tonight, with no more than fifteen minutes of editing (I have to get up at 5 a.m. to get to the journaling workshop on time.)

Yes, I will post it the very day I wrote in Halbouty. No more waiting for 3 weeks like the Kyle Field blog post, or 2 weeks like the Rudder Theater blog post (both still sitting in my files, awaiting final edits before the expectant public is allowed to read them). If Demon P. stays outside for the rest of the weekend, they might get posted too.

For the record, except for the aforementioned fifteen minutes of editing, this entire blog post was created in a single session, in the first-floor bathroom of the Halbouty Building. Yes, I wrote in a bathroom. Old buildings, especially the ones with labs, often have couches in the bathrooms. I’m sure they were originally intended for grad students. But this is the first time I’ve written on one. I’m very glad my Institutional Review Board liaison hasn’t yet returned my phone call….I really need to talk to her, but have always refused to become one of those people, …you know, the ones who have phone conversations in bathrooms.