Friday, March 6, 2009

Meta Malaise


Thank you for the comments and emails! I think I have some ideas now.





You might remember that I wrote a paper about the Carter administration a few months ago. You might remember it because I blogged about it a hundred times or so. I get worked up when I write papers. Anyway, 1n 1979, President Carter gave a now-famous speech that is usually referred to as the "malaise" speech, although the word "malaise" never actually appeared in the speech. The speech addressed what Carter termed a "crisis of confidence" among the American people during the recession and energy crisis of the 1970s. (and regardless of how you might feel about President Carter, it's hard to read this and not be a little amazed at how prescient it was. But this isn't a political post. Not really). Right now, I'm up to my neck in malaise, and "crisis" very aptly describes my confidence level. It's not depression, really. I know from depression. But I'm not really myself, especially in writing.

I've just finished writing a paper, and I'm not at all happy with it. It's not the best I can do, but unfortunately, it's the best I can do right now, and it will have to suffice. I had the same professor when I took the American novels class last summer, and I did very well in his class (he's the one who called one of my papers "supernally good"). This one is not supernal, and it might not even be adequate. I feel bad about the paper itself, and I feel bad about submitting work I consider subpar to a professor who thinks highly of me. Even if I do OK with this paper, I'll know that he's giving me a pass based on my earlier work.

This whole thing bothers me, because writing is one of the things that I do well. I say that without any conceit, because I'm way aware of my limitations. I have so many crazy anxieties and insecurities that I could have my own chapter in the DSM-IV, and having said that I know that I write well, I'll also admit that I don't do many other things well. As I told Lady in an email, if you take away the writing, I'm left with spelling, housekeeping, snappy comebacks, and breastfeeding. And since I'm all finished having babies, that last one isn't going to do me any good. So I'm worried about not being able to write (and ps--add worrying to the list of things that I do well. I'm a once-in-a-generation talent when it comes to worry).
Again, thank you for the ideas, and for patiently reading this. I'm going to use some of your suggestions. And I'm going to try to stop worrying about this. Right after I grow gills and learn how extract oxygen from water, that is. Worry is the air I breathe.

20 comments:

Embee said...

OMG...reading this is like looking in a mirror...or reading in a mirror...or something. I'm currently putting off writing a paper until the last possible second. Although I know I should have already started doing the research, I haven't been able to motivate myself to do so. In the last 3 years of college I don't think I've gotten anything but A's on research and/or argumentative papers, so of course that's what's expected. This semester is my last so I've taken it easy on myself - 2 classes. I'll have to write papers in both, but one hasn't been assigned yet so it's easier to avoid that one. And I'm with you on the writing and worry, but not so much on the housekeeping (HATE IT), and never on the breastfeeding. I failed miserably at that. Anyway, good luck with your paper. I'm going to tackle mine over spring break!

Distributorcap said...

you are a terrific writer -- and even terrific writers suffer from times of frozen brain syndrome, brain farts or complete blanking out.

it will come to you because it will -- it is the natural thing - dont force it. (whatever that means)

CDP said...

Embee--I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I finished the paper I was complaining about in this post. I have another one due at the end of the month. I can't wait until this class is over...I just don't have my usual mental energy this semester!

Dcap--thank you so much. That means a lot, and it's very reassuring!

enc said...

I doubt that everyone churns out masterpieces every time, CDP, so I think you're allowed to let yourself off the hook once in awhile.

On the other hand, your comments remind me of how I feel when I finish what I feel was a less-than-stellar class. I think maybe we all have high expectations of ourselves, and when we think we can't meet them, it does something to . . . unseat us.

But it's only temporary.

And remember, EVERY blog post you do is prize-worthy.

Gifted Typist said...

This is a fascinating post. You've managed to distill so much relevance in so few words. That is the sign of a good writer, a really good writer.

Lisa said...

You know, I think you are definitely meta-reflecting the mood of the country right now.

You worry? Go on. Between the bunch of us here in our comments, we could solve the energy crisis if we could harness the energy produced by worry.

CDP said...

enc--thank you, my friend.

GT--thank you! High praise from a writer...I will refer back to it when I feel this way again. So two to three times a week.

Lisa--I feel that you are really the only person who's in the same class as I am where worry is concerned. Some have talent, you and I have genius. It's a heavy burden to bear.

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