As a pressured academic writer, you can find yourself in a state of involuntarily quitting,
watching yourself while you are not writing enough.
Now don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with quitting!
It’s vastly underrated.
When quitting is right, you escape all kinds of problems and get a chance for new possibilities.
You don’t have to worry about getting an academic job or keeping it. You don’t have to finish that book or dissertation.
And quitting is exciting. If “not quitting” is the only thing holding you back, then you need to check whether you’ve been brainwashed.
There can be nothing more character building than putting a stop to something and choosing a new direction.
If you have the right attitude, quitting won’t make you weaker.
There are lots of problems where the solution is Run Away!
How stupid it is that people try to convince us that this is not so.
Quitting is a great reminder of our freedom,
and that what we are and what this life is,
is so much bigger than little ideas about life![let’s have a pause and moment of respect for that]
Quitting on Purpose vs. Involuntarily
So nothing wrong with quitting, on purpose.
And by on purpose I mean because you feel like it, AND/OR because circumstances, like lack of a job or tenure, make that the right choice.
What I mean by involuntary quitting is not being “forced to quit” by the world.
Instead, it’s this weird split state where you have not chosen to quit in your mind,
but in your actions it’s like you are quitting.
And that can feel a little out of control:
You’re not writing or maybe even not trying to write, although you want to.
And you may not even recognize this person: who is this one who doesn’t try, doesn’t commit, and won’t listen to reason—
“If I can’t even write this proposal, then how can I expect to get a job, or if I got a job, how would I get tenure?”
Why is all this quitting happening on a day to day basis, when I haven’t quit?
Well far more often that not, this split state is being governed by a spiral of defeat that can be easily broken.
But it does have to be broken, and sometimes people just don’t realize that they need to take careful aim at this cycle, really focus on breaking that first, before anything else can follow.
How to Get Out of the Spiral of Continuous Defeat
Chances are efforts have been made in the past, but they are seen as coming up too short.
And this may have gone on for a long time, like you can’t believe that 2 years have gone by and you haven’t finished your book or written a third chapter of your dissertation.
As the situation gets worse, the mind naturally thinks the efforts need to be stepped up in proportion to the dire situation.
So the idea of what you are shooting for gets bigger and bigger, even while what you’ve accomplished remains the same.
And then you might fail to hit the mark you need to hit, which just results in less momentum and even less will to do what’s needed.
Obviously, that makes the situation worse, and the idea of what you must do to match the direness of the situation expands in its greatness even more. Etc. Etc.
The cycle sets in.
And then you watch the involuntary quitting play itself out on a day-to-day basis.
Instead, though your inner-alarm bell might ring violently in protest, what you need is the exact opposite of the “raise the struggle to the direness of the occasion” frame.
Instead, what you need is EASILY doable goals, even if they fly in the face of the situation.
Your goal for the day might be to write a paragraph. Or revise for 20 minutes. It could be more. But the important thing is: YOU CHECK IT.
You check to see if you hit your goal. If you did not, it means you have failed to set the kind of goal that works. You need to set an easier goal.
The definition of the right kind of goal is: The goal that is EASILY DOABLE.
I’m putting that in all caps, pardon me, because it really needs to sink in.
We are talking about breaking a cycle here, so it’s not something the mind is going to really go along with easily, at least not when it comes down to real action.
You have to both understand how to break the cycle, and actually do it.
You thought your 4 hour writing sessions were hard—try setting the goal at a paragraph or a page!
But that’s what you need to do. In the short term: you need to set goals that are reachable, easily doable. That’s the kind of thing that actually works to counter what’s been happening.
And, you have to be radical about it, but it’s not the radical solution that the thinking mind often offers– like work harder, set higher goals, do more, struggle in proportion to the seriousness of the occasion, etc.
Instead, you need to get radical about setting EASY goals. If you are finding you are not doing what you wanted to do, then you need to reduce what you want to do.
That won’t sound right to the thinking mind, but it is right.
By not following this, we continue to miss our goals and get further drawn down into the swamp.
The situation seems worse, and then the response of “Oh my god I have to work my ass off” gets stronger, and it’s a cycle.
Let’s get out of that cycle!
Set EASY goals. If you miss them, set the bar differently.
Do this until you are successful almost every single time you sit down to write.
Don’t listen to the voice that says it is not enough.
If you do it the better way, your momentum builds and you will be able to do more later.
Nothing breeds success like success.
The cycle of momentum will build.
It’s way more important for momentum to have an easily doable plan. That gives us a solid start. Otherwise it’s like trying to jump, pushing off of mud. (or quicksand!).
Get this foundation first—set easily doable daily goals, and you’ll find you are picking up steam.
The next step is understanding more about how to situate these small goals inside a larger plan, including a vision for your life and future.
We’re not throwing that big stuff out—oh no, it’s still important, but we need to put all that big scary stuff in another frame.