Writing & reflecting

This year has felt incredibly busy thus far, which has left me feeling scattered. I look back over the last six months and wonder where the time went and what did I actually accomplish. Although I got a lot of stuff done, I sped through deadlines with little time to reflect and process. So I’m left running on empty and wondering if I actually learned anything. Work wasn’t the only area where I took on too much, so I spent the last few weeks burned out and barely able to accomplish the day-to-day stuff at work and home. 

We are extremely lucky to be able to build a house, a house that we’ve designed (with an architect) to be our sanctuary for the next 10-15 years. As much as I like to travel with friends and family, I am truly a homebody. After months of searching last year, we bought a very wooded property not too far from where we live now. Since then, we have made seemingly endless decisions – designing a floor plan from scratch and choosing exterior siding and stone, flooring, cabinets, countertops, windows, furniture (that comes later). On top of monitoring the daily site progress, there are still many things left to choose – paint colors, lighting, organization & storage, landscaping, decorations (minimal). This, plus work, plus a 3-year-old who has grudgingly just started preschool, has led to a severe case of decision fatigue. 

This could prove to be problematic for the research leave I started yesterday. The purpose of this leave…to write. Writing is incredibly stressful and draining for me. My anxiety spikes, I agonize over word selection, phrasing, and edit my thoughts before they are even written down on paper. (In part, this blog is supposed to help get used to writing more frequently and informally.) The words do not come easily when I know others will read it. BUT, yesterday, I started my writing retreat off a positive note by going to Fort Harrison State Park and sitting in the walnut grove while I outlined and read a wonderful speech by Anthony Pare. It was lovely and relaxing. My carpel-tunnel limits how long I can write by hand, so I eventually came home to set up the project in Scrivener (a new tool to me) and get my Endnote library started. I lost some of the calm fiddling with the mechanics of producing a manuscript, but my motivation remains strong. At least for the next 13 days, my goal is to think about writing as a process to help me clarify my thoughts, and try to forget about the product that is supposed to result from it.

Today, I am working from home with the goal of getting a couple of sections drafted that are already fairly clear in my head. Tomorrow, I will return to the walnut grove to think, reflect, and process to flesh out the next section. Hopefully, it will be something worth sharing.

Looking ahead to the fall, I want to fit in a weekly or maybe biweekly visit to this place to reflect and process from a distance. I’m not sure how that will happen now that the construction has begun on the house, but I am going to try.

By Heather L. Coates

2 comments on “Writing & reflecting

  1. Hi Heather. I can completely relate the anxiety you describe here. Thanks so much for sharing with those of us who read your blog. I’m struggling with writing and over scheduling and decision overload in other ways, but it’s comforting to know I’m not alone! Good luck! You’re doing great 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m glad it helped! We are definitely not the only ones 🙂 I’m lucky to be part of a great group of untenured librarians at MPOW who provide support and peer-review writing before the rest of the world sees it. I hope you have a support network in place to help with the writing and saying no when you need to. It helps tremendously!

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