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Academic Coaching & Writing

XXII. An Academic, Writing: Pressing Pause

May 21, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as prolifically lately. Truth be told, the end of the semester got the best of me. My kids got sick, and then I got sick. Then the papers began pouring in, wave after wave to be graded and handed back, only to receive the next flood of papers.

There was just too much going on, too much for my brain to process effectively. I tried to keep up my sacred writing time, even though the Virtual Writing Room had ended, but without Nisi (one of our wonderful Writing Room Moderators) guiding me through visualization exercises at the beginning of the hour, I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I began to resent Laferrière and his endless rewrites and revisions and looked for any reason at all NOT to work on the book. Eventually, I gave up on trying, and I gave my sacred writing time over to the endless hours of grading and administrative tasks that come with the end of the semester.

Breakdowns of routines happen to all of us. But we, as writers, need to decide how we are going to let this affect us. I could have chosen to see this as some sort of failure on my part, get really, really discouraged, and end up in a cycle of self-doubt and self-loathing: “I’ll never finish this project, I’m not cut out for this, I’m not a very good writer.” And, I will be honest, there were days when I seriously wondered if I still even wanted to write this book. After all, I don’t need it for my tenure case or promotion (because I’m not on the tenure-track), and it will just be another academic book that sits ignored on the shelves of a few libraries. But these justifications were just there to try and keep at bay the feeling that I had failed, that I was a failure.

And then, I gave myself a break. I decided to be easier on myself. Instead of writing, I tried to read more, to reignite the spark that made me want to be an academic to begin with. I avoided reading (or rather rereading) Laferrière. I combed through my bookshelves and Kindle for books that I had been meaning to read and just didn’t have the time. I wanted, in part, to give myself a break from grading, but also to reacquaint myself with language, how other authors can make it do marvelous things. I made more time to spend with friends and family, as well as time for myself, swimming or doing yoga.

And, somewhere in the back of my mind, although my Laferrière project rested, it would creep into the front of my mind from time to time. Now that the semester is over, it’s asserting itself more and more. The connections are becoming clearer, and I find myself wanting to go back to the research, go back to the books, and go back to the writing. Maybe I would have stopped writing it, knowing it was time to move on, if when things slowed down, the book had remained silent. Instead, I am ready to begin anew. In my next post, I’ll be addressing how I plan to get back into the writing habit.

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