The undisciplined writer

3 Aug

I have been working on an academic project for some time, and it generates a lot of anxiety: am I good enough, is this what the supervisor is looking for, is my work adequate? Such questions create a context of insecurity which compells me to ask for reassurance. It forces me to be dependant on voices of authority and hinders me from building self-trust and confidence. In order to become a productive writer, I have trained myself to set up a schedule, get up early in the morning, and track the results. However, discipline means nothing in and of itself. There is no need to scare myself into looking for validation constantly because it takes energy away from my work and stifles all creativity. When I started my project I believed that pushing myself intellectually would be liberating but, now that I am further along the process and more critical towards the institution, I can see that liberation will derive from my approach to my work and whether or not I have to give up my own agency, whether or not the project becomes an exercise in self-delusion and self-indoctrination. There are times when I neglect my work for some time because I am following a different train of thought, reading books that have nothing to do with it, looking at another theoretical school, or being creative. This used to make me feel guilty and inadequate.

To be “undiscplined”, as I intend to reframe it now, is to be a complete human being who refuses the atomization of her life. Knowledge is so compartmentalized that it can easily prevent one from making links between subjects and interpreting theory in terms of one’s experience. Yet whenever I express my desire to look into other things, the response I receive is “finish your project first”. As if meaning could be postponed indefinitely; as if no future obligations were lurking behind the current project; as if new activities and ways of thinking did not have the capacity to transform the project under construction. Is it because we fear the true potential of thought that we confine it to strictly delineated contours (in terms of field, methodology, and politics)? Are we so afraid of freedom that we need the constant reassurance that authority is on our side?

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