So, I’m having one of those weeks

I’m having one of those weeks in which it’s impossible to concentrate on anything for more than a minute.

It’s not that I’m daydreaming, it’s just that my mind keeps going blank… and then I realise that it’s been blank for a while, and there’s nothing but freakin’ tumbleweeds in there.

It’s taken me all day to write this stupid post and it’s only four sentences so far. Because I keep forgetting that I’m writing it.

Of course, in hindsight I realise that I should have turned off the computer and gone to the gym/read a book/gone to an art gallery/met someone for coffee/baked a delicious treat. But that would require me to have noticed that I wasn’t doing anything, which brings me back to the problem.

So, it’s time to bring in the Big Guns: you guys. How do you deal with this? How do you say, ‘ok brain, let’s go do something else’ when you don’t even notice that you’re not doing anything?

36 responses to “So, I’m having one of those weeks

  1. I don’t know, I don’t want to get overly philosophical here, but perhaps there’s actually a benefit in not over-thinking it, and in just riding the ‘let my brain wander / go blank’ wave… This is based on the assumption that you of course know the difference between (a) avoiding work and (b) just not getting work done (this assumption is made from your own post).

    So, say for a week nothing happens, so what, really? Longer than a week… well, maybe something else.

    Which is to say, I’ve begun quietly collecting little snippets of media that play up the benefit of boredom and randomness in the longer-term. Then again, this approach could just be part of the problem (*she says with two research articles in sitting in draft…*)

  2. set an alarm on your phone for every hour (or whatever time period you think acceptable). I did this during my dissertation. It jolted me on those days I felt blank. It didn’t always jolt me to writing productivity, but at least it reminded me I needed to go to the gym or read something else or do ANYTHING. And as you’d know often those activities help fire you up again (well at least 50% of the time 🙂 )

    • An hour? Gee, that’s wishful thinking.

      It is a good method, and normally it would work. Just something is off this week. I’m sure it will pass.

      Vee, welcome to the News with Nipples. What did you write your dissertation on?

      • How about the Pomodoro app? It works for me, mostly because it’s only 25 minutes.

        • I’ve have mixed success with Pomodoro. Some days I use it when I can’t get my butt into gear (“come on, just 20 minutes and then you can go outside to play”) and it works, and other days I really dislike it. But I’d forgotten all about it this week. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Thanks! long time reader. Aesthetics and ethics. How the qualities we attribute certain art forms (painting and poetry) relate to issues of self and other. In a dimly remembered nutshell at this point. And haha yes, an hour was wishful thinking then too on most days

  4. I wouldn’t try to force my brain to work if it didn’t seem capable of it. I’d go for a walk to, but I would stop and wonder why there was nothing going on upstairs…

    • That sounds like it involves thinking!

      Up until this week, I’ve been quite productive. Freelance writing, academic writing, even writing some fiction… and now I’ve just ground to a halt. I’m hoping that talking (writing) about it helps it pass sooner.

      • Re that involving thinking, um, yes. I had a project I just couldn’t do until yesterday. Imam. It ally not a procrastinator and decided to engage with why I didn’t want to do it, because I realized it was actually costing me a lot of emotional energy NOT doing it. I finally worked out what the problem was and knocked off they project in a few hours. Not sure if this actually applies to you. Maybe it’s just time to go to the movies or sth like that…

        • I think so. Just acknowledge that no work will get done even if I sit in front of the computer all day, and then leave the house.

          Luckily, it seems to have passed. Reckon the act of writing about it got me back into gear.

  5. Send your mind nuts, read the daily telegraph from front to back. That should get you stimulated. Not on line Hard copy Smell the paper

  6. Freelance, academic and fiction? Sounds like you’ve used up all your words for a while and need some time off?

  7. The Craig formerly known as Azrael:-)

    From when I (recently) did my PhD, I found that in that position, the best thing to do was to go for coffee with friends who were also doing PhDs/ academic research / writing. NOT friends who I met THROUGH doing my PhD/writing/research, but long-standing friends who I’ve known for years – the brother of a girl I dated/was-in-love-with for about 6 years almost a decade ago who’s doing his history doctorate, and a friend who ‘stole’ my girlfriend a good 15 years back – odd, I know, but it was years back and she’s such a brainy sweety (aside from her habit of sexually harassing me once she learnt I turn crimson at the sight of a woman flashing…some people sext, she send photos of me blushing) that I just could never bring myself to feel to requisite hatred for her.

    I’m sure you have equivalents (hopefully ones with a less of a tendency towards sexual harassment) – people who you didn’t MEET through your doctorate or writing, but who you grew up spending time in late night cafes discussing pseudo-intellectual crap while wearing beres and thinking that you’re akin de Beauviour, Camus and Nietszche, (and certainly NOT just one more stream of wanky arts students who are too arrogant to know how stupid they actually are:-)). We’ve dropped the beres (mostly – I still have one for when it’s cold, black hair and white face-caked makeup, but the latenight coffee conversations are still there, and all 3 of us found it wonderful both as an evening away from our theses, and as a general brainstorming tool. You get to hear from someone from a different discipline, you get the opinions of someone willing to tear you down, and most importantly it’s a chance to have fun.

    Without them I have no idea how I’d have got through the Phd deadline. The 4 years (or double that if you go part-time early) isn’t a hard timelimit, but the 3, 3.5 limit to the scholarship is a killer, and even if you’re all out of ideas, it really helps to have good friends in the same situation – you’ve probably realised that I teeter on the edge of self-harm at the best of times, and I’m sure things would have crashed without them.

    • The Craig formerly known as Azrael:-)

      Oh, off-topic I know, but for clarification: the ‘I just could never bring myself to feel to requisite hatred for her’ was referring to the girl my then-girlfriend left me for (it wasn’t a coming out thing either – we were both pretty openly both-sex-attracted) – I’ve never had any time for people who slag off people who they once professed to care about, let alone love, (it’s a great warning sign of ‘how will this person view ME once the novelty wears off?’) and that certainly isn’t the case with that particular ex.

  8. The Craig formerly known as Azrael:-)

    Hi again,

    Was just going to ask this, but realised it might sound a little cyber-stalkey. I don’t want to do that, so mod me out if suitable, but I’m curious – what are you doing your doctorate in?(
    Yes, I realise that’s one of the most annoying questions to be asked as a PhD student, and it wasn’t until about my 3rd year that I managed to get the hang of a one-line explanatino for those who weren’t post-grads themselves. But, at least for those of us who aren’t going to be offended b you making clear the specificity or tech jargon…what is your PhD area/thesis.

    (No, I’m nor going to ask which instutition – that WOULD be serious cyber-stalking).

    I did my PhD in philosophy, main area of bioethics technically, but really just as an application for political/legal philosophy on liberalism, autnomy/person-hood and the government / personal autonomy divide. Most of my publications have been on mental illness and the concept of competence, but most of my overall work has been on liberalism as it applies where the usual ‘false choice’ model breaks down.

    Any stories you – or anyone other readers – want to share? Could be a good thread?

    • It’s not stalky – I ask everyone that question. I asked you in my earlier comment, but then saw this comment and edited my other one so I didn’t look stupid.

      I’m looking at online news quality, and how it relates to young people. Youngun’s tend to get their news online, so what does it mean – and does it matter – if what they’re getting isn’t very good?

  9. This happens to me for a few days every few weeks. I’m sure there’s a pattern – I should take notes and figure it out. Over time I’ve tried a lot of different things, but I still don’t have a solution and was hoping to find one here.

    While I appreciate the option, I think I’d rather get lost in my thoughts than read the Tele front-to-back.

    • You might well find one here. I go through this regularly and don’t have a solution. It’s not until afterwards that I think, “ahh, I should have just gone to see a movie”.

      Tim CinelCinel, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  10. I’m trying to finish my MA thesis and so understand this right now. Sometimes I just force myself to sit in front of the computer for hours, even if the end result is only a few sentences. Or I tell myself, fine, you can read the internet all day if that’s what you want, but you can’t go to bed until this paragraph/section/chapter is finished, or I’ve done like an actual hour of work.

    I also have a post-it note on my wall that says ‘Hey! Stop fucking around!’. Not that it helps, but, it’s a thing…

    So, in short, I don’t know how to deal with the blank. It sucks, but it seems to end eventually.

  11. My husband tells me to write something every Sunday so that he has something to read on Monday morning. If I say I can’t he just plonks the laptop in my lap and says “bloody well get on with it, just write”.

    This is what you have done and good on yer – you’ve encouraged me to do the same.

  12. I think we need to learn to be gentle with ourselves. Some days are days you need to just take a nap, or stare at the clouds, or read some non-task fiction & zone out for a while. Does you the world of good!
    Life goes on and we aren’t machines 🙂

  13. I am having a Hyperbole-and-a-Half reaction to my first complete semester – I feel like I have done soooo much, I can now relax. I forget that I am still an adult and a parent and I need to get on with stuff.
    (PS – so damn proud – I just got my first semester results for my Grad. Dip. IT and I got three Ds and an HD. *Hyperventilates*
    (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html)

  14. Dino not to be confused with

    NWN,
    You have to get up, preferably go outside and increase your heart-rate. Your brain/head has CO poisoning.
    Exercise slowly at first then increase exertion to your limit. A couple of times or more. 20 Minutes minimum. Have a shower, whilst in shower think about PhD. Change clothes(mandatory). Sit down and start fkn writing. When you gain your PhD I will visit you with some sick filosofys. You better fix’em. Otherwise I’ll make you repeat your PhD. No kidding, I can do that.

  15. Like everyone, I have been through this too and the best bit of advice I was given was to read. Read things you want to read. Read enjoyable stories, articles, books and websites connected to the kinds of things you want to write about yourself. I have a standby list of blogs and sites I go to, which help get me stoked and get the brain making connections and fired up (well, you know). When I’m busy, I feel like there are so few times I can justify reading for pleasure, but this is one time when it works a treat. Honestly, read! Read like the wind!

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