I could be a genius

If I just put my mind to it

And I, I could do anything

If only I could get round to it

Glory Days, Pulp

Does everyone feel like that? I know I do, at least some of the time. Then once in a while I try to put the work in and discover I possess an innate rubbishness after all.

At the moment I am not posting more than once a day, which is less that is usual for me. No more 4,000 word posts on films I don’t even like for the time being. I can’t afford to do that any more. The trouble is, I’m way behind on my actual work.

It’s not because I’ve been blogging all the time. It’s to do with schedules and bottlenecks and resourcing and restructures and, and, and … Basically, it’s to do with me being completely and utterly crap. I have been working but I’ve not been doing much of the work that actually had to be done.

It happens like this: I get something to do. I don’t want to do it straight away because it looks a bit hard. So I leave it till the next day, and I’m about to start, but then I remember that that job’s hard and, feeling a little bit afraid, I put it to one side. The next day, I see that very hard job on my to-do list and decide I can’t possibly begin it now – after all, it’ll soon be the weekend and I need a full-on, concentrated stretch in which to get something like that done. So then I leave it till the next week, by which time it’s become impossible and terrifying. So I do nothing about it until the shit has truly hit the fan, by which point it genuinely is hard to get it done whereas in actual fact, right at the start, it was probably a piece of piss.

I do this all the sodding time. It was like that with my PhD. I was desperate to get funding because I thought if I did, it’d mean I was clever and I could think deep thoughts and sit around reading big books all day long. Then I got the funding and suddenly found this immense stretch of unstructured time in which I was obliged to actually be clever laid out before me. It was bloody terrifying. So I’d go to the library, pick up Kant, think “nah, too hard for me!”, and retreat with a copy of Sophie’s World. This continued for three and a half years. I’d piss about all day then at night, when I lay in bed, the panic at how little I’d done would creep over me. So I’d drink wine and play on the Playstation, then get up late and read a bit more Jostein Gaarder.

Finally it came to a head. I was meant to submit a thesis and I didn’t have one. So I made one up (I mean, I had read the odd thing. Just nothing that struck me as remotely difficult). I thought I might be allowed to scrape a pass. Of course, I got a resounding fail, albeit with permission to resubmit as I had shown some promise (i.e. in the one chapter where I’d randomly happened upon something no one else had noticed over the past 200 years. Perhaps they hadn’t seen fit to notice it because it was a bit irrelevant, though). I couldn’t live with the idea of having sent nearly four years down the drain, so finally I forced myself to put down the Playstation controller and do some proper work. By that time I’d run out of PhD funding, so I had to get a proper job and rewrite my thesis in the evenings, visiting the library at weekends. It was difficult. And in many ways it did me good. I wrote something which, while not a heartbreaking work of genius, I still think is rather good, in places at least. It was the making of me. Except it wasn’t. As soon as I got the Dr title, I went back to being crap (actually, it happened before that. As soon as I passed I went back to being crap. It took me two years from passing to get the degree formally awarded as booking in for the degree ceremony became one of those things that was way too scary and hard).

Obviously being successful (at least financially) isn’t related to being good at your job. You only have to look at bankers to know that (perhaps the collapse of the economy is down to all bankers being like me. During my worst work panics, I think this must have been how Nick Leeson – or was it Liam Neeson? – felt at Barings). But in my office, I often see people who are, if not more successful, then way better than me at their jobs. The reason why? They just get on with it. When asked if they can do something, they don’t turn into Mavis off Coronation Street and start wringing their hands, saying “ooh, Rita, I don’t really know” (none of my colleagues are called Rita, so this is yet another thing that freaks them out).

I want to be more like the “get on with it” people. I even bought a book to tell me how to do it. What’s Stopping You? divides people into two types: high-AM (achievement motivated – the “get on with it” peeps) and high-FF (fear of failure motivated – that’ll be me). When I read it it all seemed pretty plausible. But then I stopped halfway through because I realised I was reading it to get out of doing any actual work. And I can’t go back to reading it now because it’s too hard and I’m too scared.

When I got home yesterday evening I told my partner that I was scared that I might die suddenly, and on top of everyone missing me and stuff (I presume), the next worst thing would be everyone at work finding out how behind I am and I’d have no chance to cover it up, what with me being dead and all.  He just said “oh, everyone feels like that at work”. But I don’t think that’s true. He just said that because he’s exactly the same as me. And now he’s got end of course things to do and I’m in a full-on panic about my stuff, and it’s as tense as hell at home (and I bet if I did die and go to hell, even the hellish stuff wouldn’t prevent me from still worrying about the messy spreadsheets left behind).

And so, I’ve just written a 1,000 word post on why I can’t keep writing like this and need to get my shit together. But in a way, this post is meant as a kick up the arse. A recognition of what a complete idiot I can be. I could be so much better, if only I stopped worrying about being worse.

PS The last time I started a post with a song quotation, people left comments correcting me because I’d misheard it. Well, I could have looked up the Pulp lyric but I just didn’t put my mind to it or get round to it. And now I’m too scared. Will you go and check for me?