My doctor's quite a bright man, and unlike many medical professionals I've met, he treats me as an intelligent person. So we have relatively long, informed conversations about my health and how I'm doing. Today's chat included a revelation about the way I handle things.
Most of you know that I'm supposed to be writing up a PhD at the moment. Some of you know how much work on that I've actually done since December. Basically, around zero. Oh, I've written a paper which is to be published in a journal soon, and done a few diagrams, but diagrams do not in themselves a thesis make. It needs words to explain what the diagrams mean, for starters.
I have been putting off and putting off starting the actual write-up. I've made every excuse under the sun. I've decided to check results by redoing some of my simulation runs, I've learnt a new programming language, I've done and redone diagrams, I've been to the library and made a load of notes. But I haven't actually committed anything to my Thesis document on the computer - not even a copy of my paper. Then I've spent the past couple of months declaring that I'm too damned stressed to even try working (well okay, Richard's mum dying really did knock us for six - but Richard went back to work after a week of grieving and just went slowly for a couple of days until he felt better, and there's no real reason I couldn't have done the same).
You know why I've been making all of these excuses? That's right, it's my old friend Fear. He pops up to trouble me whenever I've got a big project on - he and his aquaintances Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing. I get myself into this wonderful state where I'm too scared to even start because I know I'm stupid, I'm useless, I've muddled my way through the past three years, I don't understand anything, I haven't worked anywhere near hard enough, and I don't deserve to actually finish and get my PhD. Ouch.
In theory, past performance would indicate that I probably can get this PhD. I've done well enough at passing exams in my life so far. And if I really was incapable of getting it, I wouldn't have been accepted onto the course - or if somehow I had been, I would have got thrown out before too long. But few proofs hold up to the scrutiny of Fear and Self-Doubt.
So what to do? Well, there's a few things I can do to get started. Actually write something would be a start. Just a couple of pages. And I need to stop using excuses such as "I can't start work until I've finished reading news" when one of the groups I read is getting more than 300 messages a day and I try to read them all. I've got to cut right back on things like newsreading and timewasting. Spending time in the evening playing around online is one thing, but doing it instead of working is another, and I need to stop it.
That's why I'm up so late tonight - I've been trying to catch up with all my online stuff so that I can work tomorrow without the temptation to do other things. I've hardly managed to clear out anything, but I think I'm going to mark all read in soc.bi, and get a better newsreader to read alt.poly with, one with scoring, so I need only read the stuff I really want to read rather than the entire group - at least until I have time to read the entire group again. People can manage perfectly well without me for a few weeks or months. But can I manage without them? Hmmm.
I've actually still not written all of the journal entries that I wanted to make today, but I've said the things I need to say. The other things can wait until I have more time. Discipline and motivation are what I need right now, and I don't have a huge amount of either.