Dragging My Heels

There’s an article that I need to write, one that, in theory at least, I’ve been at work on for some weeks. In reality, however, I never made it beyond the first day of drafting.

I’ve allowed dozens of things to intervene between me and the writing process — packing and moving, of course, as well as other unavoidables, but also a slew of perfectly-well-avoidables, like that book that I really needed to finish reading right away, even though it was unrelated and frankly not all that pressing, or those fall syllabi that I need to begin pondering, even though those ponderings are at best loose and unfocused.

I’ve hit the point of stalling at which I’ve begun to feel guilty, and guilt is itself a profound disincentive for me; rather than face up to and eliminate the cause of my guilt, I tend instead to avoid it, thereby deepening the guilt, thereby increasing the need to avoid its source. A vicious circle, indeed.

So I’ve spent the last day or so trying to figure out why I’m avoiding the article, what it is about the argument I’m hoping to make that has me resisting the painful process of shaping it into sentences. And I’ve come up with a couple of possibly related things.

The article is for a planned casebook on Curtis White’s Memories of My Father Watching TV, and I’ve been charged with focusing on the novel’s representations of television, which is, of course, something I’ve written a little bit about before. So theoretically, at least, it should be easy — but there’s something I dread in returning to the scene of an old argument, having to find a way to rearticulate ideas that I’ve already harped on about at great length. This is complicated by the fact that I’m not quite sure I’ve got that much new to say about the White itself; the more I think about the book, the more pedestrian my thoughts seem to become.

But of course, this is in no small part because I’m doing this thinking without writing; it’s only in writing that my thoughts ever become remotely interesting or complex, and the longer I resist writing the worse my sense of those thoughts becomes, as I’m not making any progress, and instead seem only mired in the shallows.

In no small part this post is meant to kickstart me into writing something at least, something that will suck at first but then might have a chance of developing into something I’m interested in. But it’s also meant to prod you guys for ideas and advice. How do you get started writing something you dread? How do you overcome your dread long enough to get started?

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