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35. imperfect action & writing when it's hard
thinking about antidotes to writing resistance
Hi there! 👋 I’m Ida, and this is tiny driver, a newsletter about research, pedagogy, culture and their intersections. Thank you for being here. Reach out anytime by just hitting reply, I love hearing from you.
👋💖 And a big hello to the new subscribers!! I'm guessing that you are here because of the Episodes piece I wrote on queer love in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Thank you so much for subscribing to this little corner of the internet, and I'm so glad to have you here! Please also feel free to share this newsletter with friends that you think would like it too! 🥰
This week, I got a chance to use PhD Forum, and I have to say, it's been so lovely writing in real time along with other folks (ty again for the rec, Tyler!!). I also learned about the Forest App in the writing room recently 🌿. Sometimes in the chat, I would see folks say, "Do you want to plant together?" And I was like ??? Once I asked, it turns out that folks were using a productivity app together called "Forest."
Essentially, you set a countdown timer on the app to do focused work. As you are working, a little virtual tree starts growing. If you leave the app or use your phone, your little tree dies. Over time, you start to make a forrest with a bunch of cute little trees and plants that you get to choose. The app has an added accountability feature that you can use with friends. If you decide to "plant" together, that means that you are able to sync up the time you are working over the app to collectively plant a tree. If any one of you uses your phone during the time, everyone's tree dies. So there's an added sense of accountability!
The app itself costs $1.99, so I decided to get it after I heard so many good things. Honestly I have to say, I am loving my cute little forest! My time on Instagram while working has significantly decreased, so that's pretty nice too. 😉 Let me know if you'd want to be my friend on the app and maybe we can plant trees together!!! 🌱🌱🌱🌱
What I write.
This week was filled with writing resistance.
There's an academic article that I have been working on for a very long time. It's about post-9/11 Iranian representation in U.S. culture. I'm trying to say something that is a bit polemical, but in a way that is actually productive to the way that we understand the cycling of history and strategies of survival. It has been a long road in conceptualizing my argument—I think that over the many R&Rs I have received over time, I've revised it five times before? So this is the sixth block of time that I'm doing revisions on it, and I'm still trying to get it published. (I will admit, it's very hard to write this publicly. But perhaps, in saying this aloud, I'm letting someone out there know that they are not alone in this arduous process.)
Here's the thing: I really believe in what I'm writing. I believe in the importance of my argument—the political and intellectual stakes of writing on Iranians in the post-9/11 era, the discomfort of seeing how history repeats itself, and (most importantly for me) the need to show why scholars working outside of Iranian diaspora studies should care about this type of representation.
This belief, however, doesn't exempt me from having moments of deep doubt and paralysis. There are many times that I've wanted to give up on this article—I've taken it as far as it can go, I'm not a good enough thinker to make this argument really stick, it's just not worth it to continue to revise. I've felt shame, embarrassment and inadequacy. Over the past few weeks, I've tried to re-start my revisions on the article, but there are many days when I've avoided the document altogether. What if there is nothing I see that can be made better? What if I'm actually making it worse? There are days when the trauma of those R&Rs and rejections gets under my skin and I can't even open the document up.
Last week, I looked back on some notes that I've taken in the past year (either from webinars or workshops that I've attended online) in the hope of finding some inspiration or solace. I was lucky enough to take part in a writing retreat with Tara Mohr in the days between Christmas and New Years. For two hours each day, I went through journaling activities—write from your belly, from your heart—and coaching sessions that helped me cultivate strategies for writing through resistance, even when it's hard. One lesson that really stuck out in my notes was the idea of "imperfect action."
Imperfect action is essentially what it sounds like: intentionally leaping into an action from your heart, imperfectly and full of fear. In so doing, you are authentically showing up for yourself, facing your fears in service of sharing your voice. It shakes you up a bit, but ultimately nurtures growth.
This idea of "imperfect action" is what has been helping me break down my resistance barriers recently. By reminding myself that any action I take in the document will be scary to me, no matter what, I've realized that I can't wait until that fear of doing revisions just happens to subside on its own. It's in the actual doing of the thing that I'll learn to live with the fear, and maybe even it'll quell a little.
Opening up the document and working in it over the past few days, I've slowly come to see the different moments where further clarification & re-structuring would help my argument. I've given myself the space write my fears in my journal before I start revising. I've even managed to maintain my "scraps" side document, where I put everything that I deleted in the document I'm working on. When fear or critical thoughts come up, I try to remember that I am acting imperfectly. That maybe the steps—even if some are in the wrong direction—are ultimately leading me forward.
Working on these revisions still hasn't been easy. But it's been better. If you're going through something similar, I hope that this idea of "imperfect action" can help you too.
What I consume.
Item(s) of note.
Given the fact that this newsletter is hosted on Substack, I am really thinking about this piece on Substack's questionable financial backing of people that write actively against the values that I hold important and necessary to living in this world.
This art search engine has been making the rounds on the internet. All pieces featured are public domain!! What's not to love?!
Wanna know how I made the above meme? Look no further.
We've got another tummy shot for you because Girlie is feeling extra cuddly this week.
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!