Pushed to produce

Here’s a thing I thought about the other week, and I know I discussed it with my counselor, and now I’m pondering it again today. It feels like a tiny spark of hope in the face of the Big Hairy Life Stuff that I’m wrangling.

When I was in school, high school and especially college, I was one of the students that always put work off till late, sometimes the last minute. Not daily homework so much, there was never enough time to really put that off for long, but bigger projects. Especially writing research papers. I spent years stressing about this, beating myself up for “not being organized” or “not working harder” or goodness knows what. I was often working close to deadlines at the end, but I always got my assignments done and handed in on time.

It took until at least my second year in college, maybe my third, to finally get my head around the idea that this is the natural way I work: I need a little bit of a push to get going, that push usually coming in the form of an advancing deadline. I’d get the assignments at the beginning of the semester, and know that they were due “sometime,” and fiddle around and not-work on them for days or weeks, depending how far in the future they were going to be due. But at some point, I’d look at the calendar and a switch would flip in my head — uh-oh, time to get going now. And I’d jump on the project, spend hours in the library, write up notes and get my head around ideas, and write the darn thing. Often, I’ll admit, into the wee hours of the night before it was due. But I got the assignments done, and I always got good grades on them. I’d hand something in, thinking it was worth a middling B-ish at best, and it would come back with a very high A. Eventually I stopped expecting otherwise. I was good at writing papers. And I knew that I needed some push to get the work done, so I relaxed about the slack time I took at the beginning of such projects.

It’s been a long time since I wrote any research papers, but they were sizeable writing projects that I undertook successfully. I did it under a certain amount of pressure; sometimes self-created, but still pressure. And the feedback I got was all positive. I can write well when I’m pushed.

I keep reminding myself that I actually like to work; I mostly enjoy doing things, even in my time “off.” My main hobbies involve making yarn and making things out of yarn, which is all different kinds of work. I feel better when I’m getting stuff done. There are tasks I like more and ones I like less, but even if I’m doing something I don’t enjoy a great amount, it still feels good to get into it and make progress, feels satisfying to finish it up and appreciate the results. Even the often neglected house-cleaning makes me feel good, when I actually get around to it. (If I remembered that fact better, maybe I would get around to it more often.)

One of the things that makes starting up a new venture hard is the amount of work involved to get it going — everything I have ever read and ever been told points me at this. It’s one of the scary things I’m facing. But then I set beside that scary fact two things: first, that I like to work. Second, that when I’m pushed, I produce. When I remember these two things, it helps me to think that making a successful change to a different kind of work may be possible, even though it’s hard.

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