struggling to find balance

Today I woke from a dream in which I (the professor) found myself in my classroom with a bunch of expectant faces and realized that not only had I not finished grading their homework, I hadn’t even started putting together the exam that apparently I was giving that day.

Yeah, the student nightmares of sleeping through a test don’t end when you find yourself on the other side. They simply become different beasts.

But that made me think about all the things I’m doing “wrong” right now as a professor. I could be focusing more on research manuscripts (the journal articles we write–and revise–for publication that are extremely important for peer reviewing our research, getting our research out there, and getting tenure). I could be focusing more on the classes I’m teaching this semester and next semester. I could be focusing more on research proposals (large bodies of preliminary work we compress into a few pages to ask funding agencies for research money–lots of rejections there too–that tend to only get finished and published if we get funded). I could be focusing more on learning the ins and outs of administration in my department and at higher levels so that I have a better sense of what I can and can’t do as a student advisor, as a researcher, and as a teacher.

I’m doing those things during the work week, but I could be putting more effort into them (my nights and/or weekends). Where is that effort going right now?

Writing.

Writing for audiences I don’t have, hoping for an agent I don’t yet have, struggling with doubts and insecurities I always will have (unless I get over some of them I HOPE I GET OVER SOME OF THEM).

I’m also doing a lot of waiting. Waiting for feedback from critique partners and beta readers who do have my book. Now, I am so freaking grateful for these people. I can’t stress this enough. They’re taking up their free time to read my words and respond to them. They have lives, jobs, deadlines, so many distractions aside from my little MS. They have no obligation to do this, and all I can give in return is my undying thanks as well as feedback on any writing of theirs they ask me to read.

That doesn’t make the waiting easier when you’re wondering why you do this in the first place. I feel like a mediocre professor and a mediocre writer right now. You’d think I’d focus on being a professor–the job that pays–and give up on writing for a while.

But dammit, I’m greedy. I want to do both. I want to be good at both. Right now, though, I’m struggling with the how.

Considering the fact that I schedule my work days, it might be time to schedule my writing time and my non-work-day research time too. Except I need to be willing to try schedules and watch them fail and change them based on what worked and what didn’t. And failure is exhausting. Picking yourself back up from failure is exhausting.

If you have any tips on picking yourself up from failure, I’m all ears.

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2 thoughts on “struggling to find balance

  1. I had to change my perception about failure in order to be able to cope with it. Like you I have a full time day job and writing. That counts as two full time jobs and the energy I had to put in both was severely limited. Every little stumble would turn up guilt and inner rejection states. In other words I was in a hell of my own making.

    What I did was change my perception on what it means to fail and also worked very hard and keep working on exterminating toxic shame, while avoiding the black-and-white thought patterns especially when it comes to terminal states failures may create.

    For me it became a journey of learning. When something goes wrong, I stop, examine it, figure out what went wrong, then acknowledge the lesson that was learnt and move on to the next one. Any feelings of toxic shame arising I squash mercilessly by uncovering the underlying unconscious thought patterns. Any feelings of “running out of time” I equally squash mercilessly knowing that regardless of what my perception for time is, the actual state of things are never as terminal as I have them to be.

    All this didn’t happen overnight but over the past ten months. At some point I acknowledged freely that I love both my day job and writing and decided that my true desire was to do full time writing. The fact that I abandoned worry, negativity, terminal thought states, guilt, and toxic shame freed huge amounts of energy and suddenly I found that I was doing better at both my day job and my writing. It also allowed me flexibility in terms of plans. I want to finish my second draft by the end of October but if I can’t then I will accept that my randomly placed time limit needs to change. Lesson learnt. No fuss and no worries.

    Unfortunately I have no magic recipes for doing all of the above. I suspect it’s different for each of us, a personal journey if you prefer. For me personally it’s a constant state of vigilance usually over how I feel, which then uncovers the thoughts causing those feelings, which then I proceed to ruthlessly exterminate if they are thought patterns that sap my energy. I do know however that in all it’s seeking a balance and keeping my intent on what I want fresh and polished, intending at the same time for solutions.

    Hope this helps somewhat. I know you can do it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts and your journey.

      “Every little stumble would turn up guilt and inner rejection states. In other words I was in a hell of my own making.” It’s like you can read my mind. I’m totally like this with way too many things. So yes, your comment really does help. ❤

      I'll try to apply some of these thought processes in my own approach to writing. I'm sure it'll come in fits and starts, as changes always seem to do, but it sounds like it's worth a shot. 😀

      Like

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