Perfectionism & Panic: Some Problems and Positive Changes

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{Illustration by Karlheinz Dobsky, for Lux-Lesebogen (1946-1964). Image Found through 50Watts}

Originally this blog was intended to be directly linked to my proposed MA Thesis Project, which discusses the TV series Dark Angel (2000-2002), technologies that reinforce compulsory able-bodiedness, the representation of wheelchairs and exoskeletons, studies of technoculture in science fiction, critiques of posthumanist theory, and of course, crip cultural theory. However, that rather ambitious goal has made it very difficult for me to publish posts on this blog, whether such posts directly correspond to my MA Thesis (and therefore must be as close to perfect as possible) or not. This limited focus inhibits my exploration of other fields in which I’m interested. I am so fascinated by the infinite overlaps between these fields and those I have not yet begun to study.  (My current educational gap is post-colonialist and critical race theory, although I have taken one MA level course that focuses on these fields).

Intellectually-freezing perfectionism is the main reason I only have made two blog posts thus far. A constant and continuous internal struggle has always been that my writing (or art) is never “good enough,” and thus I do nothing in fear that what I make will be terrible.  Or worse, I continuously re-work, re-edit, and re-write a project because the assigned subject matter is limiting, I know the topic too well, I’m overwhelmed by the process of re-working a project with insufficient results, and/or I’m convinced that I’ve turned a previously good idea into a sprawling mountain of useless details. This second problem also seems related to a difficulty in maintaining my focus on a particular argument, subject, or style. It seems I can either focus generally on the big picture, or focus too much on tiny oh so significant details. I often lose sight of the big picture or my original argument – the sheer amount of overlapping issues to think about is just so damn seductive.

To prevent perfectionism related writer’s block, over-intensive research, freezing panic, and to make my life easier in general, I will ignore the compulsion to produce perfected pieces of specifically focused academic writing designed to show my self off (and prove that I am a worthwhile academic and not just “that weird guy who’s into obscure and useless things like disability, mad, and trans* theory”). I’ll focus less on editing, re-writing, and re-re-writing aimed to create the best and most focused written work possible and attempt to be much more casual in my posts.

So, to maintain any kind of focus and, more importantly, to facilitate debate, my writing strategy will be to just put my current research out there in as little time and few words as possible. This blog will not only present work related to my MA Thesis Project, but also my ever-changing interests in academia, activism, art criticism, and student/scholarly experience.

I was going to also talk about how I’ve experienced and dealt with personal and imposed intellectual/creative boundaries in grad and art school, creating safe discussion spaces, and academic/creative isolation. However, in the spirit of making life easier for myself (something fellow academics don’t seem to do often) I’ll save ‘Pedagogy & Purgatory’ for another post.

For fellow academics and perfectionist procrastinators, you might find this helpful:
http://www.dundee.ac.uk/studentservices/counselling/leaflets/perfect.htm

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2 thoughts on “Perfectionism & Panic: Some Problems and Positive Changes

  1. Getting pieces of my dissertation up on my blog was part of my reasoning behind starting it. But I’ve yet to do so. Reading this is a good reminder of why I might be holding back. Perhaps I should follow your lead. I’m glad to hear that you’ll be, what, less discriminating (?) in posting your work. Because it would be great to read more of it. And the best blog fodder is often what gets pushed to the margins, or gets edited out, of official, academic, disciplined projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After thinking about this some more, I realized that I don’t really have an outlet for ideas that don’t fit into my current research, developing yet unfinished ideas, & general debate and brainstorming; as you say, fodder. Hopefully, this blog will help me focus more on the process of developing ideas and exploration, rather than focusing on an unrealistically perfect final product.

      I found one article on perfectionism that describes it as neediness and lack of self-esteem, which seems to be true in my case. Needing constant positive reinforcement, encouragement, and most frequently, validation of my ideas is very much part of what keeps me stuck in ‘perpetual-essay-extension land” – a very unhappy place to reside. This is my biggest struggle in addressing and changing perfectionist tendencies; the highly competitive and sadly often gossip-filled world of academic achievement doesn’t really help with this problem. Needing approval in a realm where there seems little approval or interest to be had, especially in studying disability theory and politics where next to none currently exists, has proved extremely challenging. In many ways, activism and politics at school has been a main outlet for any kind of discussion of disability and/or queerness. But that’s another post.

      I’m vastly more confident in my artwork now, but oddly enough, at art school, I was much more confident in my academic writing. Perhaps I’ll incorporate some SF and Crip/Mad art on here as well – multimedia interdisciplinary fun!

      From speaking with friends, blogs often end up being a way to find approval and conversation on your most vested interests. I would recommend blog writing to any academic as a self-esteem booster and brainstorming device, even though that first hump of getting into the swing of posting can be tough (still working on it). I hope to read more on your thesis work or general academic interests soon :)

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