Very well, I will stop complaining since there is a fine line between making discoveries and articulating the actual state of things, and engaging in precisely the kind of self-destruction I have decided to watch out for and not do.
I have just remembered something I used to do, before Reeducation: designate time during the week for working out problems like this one. The rest of the time, I was on vacation from them, enjoying work and life.
In Reeducation this was considered too businesslike a strategy, but I disagree.
I need to jump into a different layer of self than the one I am presently in. This is something I learned about once, the idea of a layered self; it is more useful than the idea of having different faces, for instance.
I do not know what I am afraid of. Yes, I do: I am afraid that someone will discover I am treating myself decently and enjoying life, and that they will kill me. No, not that: I am rebelling against obedience. There has to be a better way to do that.
(And I have already said a great deal about how I find it impossible to write without taking at least some modicum of authority.)
What I wanted to say back then, and did not dare because it went against academic advice, but it was the grown-up thing to say:
“This schedule is unrealistic for me, and this project is at too early a stage for me to say where it will lead. I am also too close to it personally, and I need time to create the amount of distance I need to look at it objectively and practically.”
Saying this was not possible because it was too assertive and was based in too much self-knowledge. Saying I could and should do something different first was too confident. So I tried, but failed to obey and I have been destroying myself over that ever since.
As someone said long ago, and it has become more true every year: “Has pagado un gran precio por la obediencia.”
There is another, more practical way to look at the present problem: I have been heavily procrastinating on this piece because of the particularly disabling emotions I have around its subject. The piece is, furthermore, insufficiently researched, and this is a problem and it pains me. From the beginning there was not time to do the research, but in the time I have spent trying to calm down about the whole thing I could have done more.
Furthermore, when I used to work on this topic I was exhorted so much to move ahead without doing research, to write quickly, to make words flow rapidly, and to move on a dime between one activity and another, and I so dislike trying to work that way, that in the end I wanted to quit the topic and the profession — all because I was being told not to work in the way that had always worked for me.
You can call what I have been doing now procrastination, and you can say I do not know how to work. I call it being tired and unhappy and drained and guilty, and not having had it in me to work even though I know how. And sitting here trying, and not getting far enough. You can say that means I need a vacation, and this is true, but I need more.
I need another attitude toward myself, and I need a research culture. People say in print and on blogs that this is not necessary, and that by exercising discipline you should be able to work anywhere. This is mere wishful thinking, however.
At the same time my problems and blocks have to do with refusing to allow myself the authority I allowed myself in work from elementary school through parts of two assistant professorships. And professors think that the only academic problems are writing problems, but my academic blocks are about everything.
I do not have the authority to work on this, thinks the layer of me who works on the present project. So I have got to work with a more grown-up self. That person would have gotten themselves the authority to work on this. Only with a certain amount of authority can you decide to give yourself the time to work something out, and even more importantly, maintain a clear gaze in the face of all the conflicting arguments that swirl around everything.
And I was right that academia had been ruined for me, at least for the time being. All the exhortations about how I must just not be interested in field, or about how I must be loyal, were misguided because they failed to recognize the trauma(s). And in part, I sit in traumas still because I want them recognized. (Perhaps it is I, myself, who did not stand up for myself on this; perhaps it is my own attention I am trying to get.)
Ah, wanting an adult life and seeing it available right in front of me. Ah, being frozen and not able to break through the glass. Sondé miroir, O Legba.