Wednesday, 1 February 2006

jimmy drama

And ... scene.

Back in December I was invited to extend and resubmit my paper from MoDELS for a special issue of SoSyM, a computing journal in my field. That was cool, because journal publications count pretty highly on a CV, and I don't have any. Also, it gave me a chance to publish some of the theoretical work I'd been doing to ground what I'd written in the MoDELS paper.

So I knew about this in December - I had a date (today), and basically knew what it was I needed to do. I made a little progress in the couple of weeks before going away over Christmas, but knew that the real guts would have to come in January.

Unfortunately, I have this way of working, you see. I sit in front of the computer and surround myself with appropriately chosen reference materials, and then, well, do other stuff. I read web sites, distract myself, write blog entries, read other people's blog entries, whatever I can do to avoid working.

Every now and then I have a meeting where I have to show some progress, and I dig out some relevant part of a paper to discuss and pretend that I've been neck-deep in its implications for my work (the impliciations usually being real, to be fair), and I'm very convincing but I come out feeling dishonest because I really haven't written anything.

Then, with two weeks to go, and the task looking daunting, I tell myself, "right, now I have to start doing this". And I promptly don't. I keep avoiding, I stress myself about it, I tell everyone I know how stressed I am about it, perhaps I cancel a few commitments, unsubscribe from a few blogs, stop blogging. But I don't actually do anything.

For my last update meeting, a week out, I rush some stuff I've doodled into a document and show it with great sweeping hand gestures about how I'm going to talk about A in section X and explain B in section Y, and justify C in the related work, blah blah blah. But I do nothing.

Then I really stress. I catch a cold and don't sleep well and stop shaving. I tell myself I'm going to work through the weekend and finish off the major section so I can get it proof read with a day to spare. But I don't.

Then, a day before its due, I have this day, where I just sit down and write. I write maybe 3 or 4 pages of neat, succinct prose that says just what I needed it to. Still, on the last day I have another page and a half to write, and corrections to make to 3 others, and its dire. I get up, I do it, I give it to proof-readers, they read it, give comments about minor improvements, which I make, and I submit it. Then I go and watch football and tell myself that next time I'll put in some yards earlier on in the race. But I won't.

And I know. I know its not ideal. I can kind of see how it works. I agonise over the stuff so much that by the time I get to sitting down and writing, it flows out almost fully formed, moreso than if I had started writing when I should have. In a bizarre kind of way, its grossly efficient - the actual time I spend working on a paper is drastically less than it should be for what I submit. But it eats at me - I hate myself for weeks at a time, wishing I'd been challenged at high school so I could have a work ethic, speculate on how my life will go down the toilet when I miss the deadline and lose my scholarship. My health suffers, my self-esteem suffers, and it just isn't good for me. But I keep doing it.

Yeah, I know, get over myself. But its my blog and I'll self-flagellate if I want to.


Anonymous said...

Well spoken Mr Blampenny. I like your style. How much did you say you were asking?

Jim said...

Find me a sherrin, a good bottle of cab-shiraz and a PhD, and I'm yours. I can negotiate on the PhD. Who are you again?