Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slacker No More

I've been writing the conference version of our thesis for the past several days. So far I've made ten pages, including the bibliography. Not all of that is new stuff; I only wrote the abstract, introduction and a couple of sections. I copied one of the sections covering the review of related literature from an earlier draft, since I figured we hadn't really discovered anything new since then, and it was probably okay. When I think about it, I should've finished this work last week; the stuff I wrote was only a few paragraphs long, stuff that I've known by heart after a semester and a half of semi-continuous research. It's a matter of sitting in front of the monitor in the sala and spinning my thoughts into words while tuning out the sound of my father's NBA game on TV.

Only it's not that simple. I'm prone to distractions; in fact, I tend to invite them quite readily. Whenever I get stuck at a tricky turn of phrase—I'm particular with word choice, even in my academic writing—I fire up Firefox and look up Dictionary.com. While looking for the link in the search bar's drop-down menu, the link for Onemanga catches my eye. Hmmm, a quick browse won't hurt. Even if I'm not currently following any manga, I love looking at random titles to see if there's anything interesting. So I click on Onemanga and browse to my heart's content...all the while watching the little digital clock on the system tray. I think, 30 minutes is fine. Unfortunately those 30 minutes pass by almost unnoticeably; the next time I check it's already been 50 minutes. 50? 50's fine. It's only about an hour before midnight, and I can stay up late, after all. Then an hour and a half pass by, then two, then three...until my eyes hurt and I check whatever work I've managed to put in. A couple of paragraphs. I don't need to look at the clock to know that it's way, way past my bedtime. A mixture of shame and weariness tug on my eyelids as I save my work and back it up on my thumb drive. Another day lost to my bad habits. I promise myself (always half-heartedly) that I'll finish the next day, I remind myself that if I would just sit down and work, I would be finished the next day. But in the back of my mind I'm already resigned to whatever distractions I'm bound to encounter. I welcome them, whether they be my favorite cooking shows on TV or another juicy installment of Lucifer (which I've already downloaded in its entirety, and is just waiting for me to open my comic reader and immerse myself). I welcome the temporary escape they bring, the promise of easy entertainment. The rush. The thrill of new information or wonderful stories. Both good things, but not when I'm using them to distract myself from what I ought to be doing.

I've been calling myself a slacker for the longest time. I used to think I was just being true to myself; hey, it's my nature, after all. I love goofing off. Sometimes I think that this is all that I really want to do with my life...amass books and movies and comics and manga and anime until I have more than I know what to do with. Take two- or three-hour naps. Watch TV. Open the door whenever our quirky Japanese spitz barks at it (and me) so he can go outside and watch the children playing on the street. Chop vegetables and saute garlic and onions and tomatoes whenever my mother's cooking. Sleep some more. Watch some more. And all the while I keep wondering, what about the stuff I keep saying I care about? The stories in my head, waiting to be given life? The books I keep buying and downloading, but haven't even bothered to read? And of course, there's the commitments I promised to keep, not the least of which is my thesis. I hate my habit of cramming my work ('cause I spent most of the allotted time slacking), but I always wind up doing it. Always. 'Cause I'm me, a slacker by nature.

Writing this all down helps me look at myself a little more critically, I suppose. It all sounds like so much rationalizing, and it is, it really is. Slacking is not what I want to do with my life. I want to accomplish something. I want to write my stories. I want to win a Palanca (yes, seriously). I want to read awesome, mindbending novels and watch critically-acclaimed movies. I want to broaden my perspective. And so on. But these things remain mere wants 'cause I haven't taken that crucial step: I haven't put in the work. I haven't gotten away from square one 'cause I haven't tried to leave it; I just whiled my time away, thinking that maybe I'd start moving somehow even if I didn't put in the effort. But no. No way that's gonna happen. Not at the rate I've been going.

So yeah. There's my New Year's resolution (though I better start even before the New Year 'cause my deadlines are in January XP). No More Slacking. Like a knife through the heart, that is. ~.~

PS I only got to thinking about these things because of an article I received in the mail from StevePavlina.com. It was about setting your sights on goals you care about and resisting distractions. It hit me square in the face, that one. ^^ If you're into personal development stuff, he's got some nice articles about all kinds of things, like building up your confidence. Good reads. :D