I woke up this morning with the same weighty anxiety as I felt yesterday and, to be honest, a part of me really wanted to succumb to it for a second consecutive day. I also knew that if I did hide from the blank page, I'd just be pissed off at myself and I'd have made it that much more difficult for myself to push through the unpleasantness.
So, while I did procrastinate a bit, I made myself promise to myself that I would, before it got too late, actually try to complete the outline I started on Thursday evening. Ironically, part of my procrastination consisted of reading another chunk of Elizabeth Costello. So, yeah. I put off working on my dissertation by working on my dissertation.
What I have come to accept about myself, though, is that I have a real problem here. There is a part of me that keeps finding (and in some cases, adding) work to do before beginning the chapter, presumably out of the fear of not being prepared to tackle what, in some ways, I have been avoiding for more than a year. (After all, I originally planned to rework a brief essay I'd published on Disgrace a few years ago, add a bit about Age of Iron and Slow Man, and turn it into a sixty page chapter on Coetzee). Here's the thing: Disgrace is just so huge, so significant a benchmark in contemporary literary history that I knew addressing it would require a half-year or more of preparation and that scared me. Now that I have done the prep work, though, I have begun feeling anxious over the sheer size of the project, anxious over my mastery of so many interlinking and often contradictory ideas. So, I'm worried. And this feeling, as I saw it today, left me with two distinct choices:
2. Don't write.
Now, since not writing tends to lead to more not writing while writing leads to less writing, I decided that the first choice was really the only way to go, so, for a little while this evening, I sat down with my outline and finished plotting out the general direction and shape of the chapter-to-be. I'm thoroughly dissatisfied with it, of course, but there's quite a bit of stuff laid out now and I have a road map to help me negotiate the foggy course I am about to take. I imagine I will spend some time over the next few days digging around in my recently-reviewed notes for various info-nuggets to put into the writing but, since that may not be as time-consuming a task as the Erik-in-fear-of-beginning might hope for, I may also dive into the chapter, outline in one hand and reams of notes in the other and stop putting off the inevitable sooner rather than later. We'll see.
For tomorrow: Read, prepare notes, and/or dissertate.