Saturday, March 28, 2009

Overcome. Challenges.

I saw the reminder over at Candid Engineer to submit something re "overcoming challenges" to the next Scientiae carnival and the two words held a real dissonance for me. One overcomes something negative, a setback, an obstacle, a misfortune. On the other hand, a challenge is something one rises up to meet or seeks (or issues). I'm not sure if that comes from many years of indoctrination, or a naturally competitive spirit, but I would never have considered a challenge something to overcome. I wasn't really considering submitting anything to the carnival anyway. I didn't have a blog (at least, not an active one) and I have more than enough writing to do, but I kept thinking about those words. Then I realised they made more sense to me reversed.

I'm in the final stages of my PhD and thinking a lot about what happens next. About 6 months ago, I found FSP, and from links and comments there, Professor in Training, Candid Engineer, See Jane Compute and others. I've read through archives and comment threads and found a community that I didn't know existed. Posts have been scary, interesting, illuminating, off-putting and thought provoking. And I have wanted to join in the conversation. Why didn't I? It is not shyness, or lack of something to say. It is, very simply, a dislike of writing, of actually putting words on 'paper'. This is something I have struggled with since I left 'the real world' to get my Masters and along the way I have learnt tricks and stratagems to force myself to do the necessary writing. A recent post from FSP made me think about that. The person she described was very familiar to me. (I actually remember working like this - me dictating, others writing - back in highschool.) What really caught my attention though was the word she used: graphophobia.

I was a fairly stereotypical toyboy. As far back as I remember, I was spending most of my time with the boys doing 'boy things'. One of the first things I learnt, to be 'one of the boys', was never let them see you are scared. This has actually had an impact on my character in two ways. First, I learnt that bravado and bluff can very quickly become confidence - by pretending that I am not scared, often the fear goes away. Secondly, it became part of my personal creed to never let fear stop me doing anything. I have a very real needle phobia, but this idea pushed me to become a blood donor more so than any appeals to need or civic duty would have done. Fear will never be a limiting factor on my life. And now FSP comes along and suggests that I might be scared of writing! That puts a whole new slant on my writing avoidance. Because I look at things honestly, and see that she might be right. Why do I avoid writing? It is not because I can't - those things I have forced myself to write are, I believe, of reasonably good quality. It is not even because I am slow - the time spent actually writing, as opposed to procrastinating, is quite productive. Can I really just be scared of turning thoughts into written word? (I have no trouble with the spoken word, as friends and colleagues could attest to.) Because if I am scared of writing then, by my personal creed, I must write. And so, I reverse the Scientiae theme by challenging myself to overcome this fear of writing, by committing to at least two blog posts a week until I submit my thesis. I love a good challenge :)


  1. Nice entry.
    "First, I learnt that bravado and bluff can very quickly become confidence"
    That is so true. It has gotten me through more situations than I ever could have imagined. Sometimes just pushing past the initial fear or hesitation is all you really needed to do.

  2. Like you, I too stumbled into this community I never thought existed, and I have found myself reading through the archives and nodding along the way. For some reasons, I felt that every other grad student, no matter where they live or what field they are in, has problems similar to mine. And just by reading their blogs, I felt that I have come to "know them", in a personal way :)

  3. Go, Curious Computer, go! Welcome to the Blogosphere. Hooking up with Scientiae is a good start to blogging. :-)

    PS -- love your header banner.

  4. Thanks for all the welcoming comments. It's nice to finally join the community. Here's hoping the challenge works for me (though I have to admit that after many years as a blood donor, I am still terrified of needles).