What’s next? A slight hitch in the proceedings

I’m somewhat torn about writing this update, but since I advocate transparency for others, I feel as if I should follow my own advice. A while back I announced that I’d be kicking off a new project (well, actually two), but I haven’t made much progress with them. So, what’s up with that?

Here’s the thing. I love my ideas, really I do. But something’s been getting in the way of my following through and and getting excited about them, and I’m trying to figure out what the problem is. Because if there’s an idea I think I should be excited about and I’m not, then something’s wrong. So there’s been quite a bit of introspection and soul-searching happening, and I’ve been trying not to bore anyone with that. No one wants to bothered with my ponderings about “Is this really what I should be doing?” “Is this the best use of my abilities?” etc. Believe me, even I get bored by it at times. My conclusion at the moment is that I just haven’t found quite the right angle or approach or philosophy that feels genuine to me.

Because one of the downfalls of my particular situation is that I usually don’t have the kind of extra motivations most people do for getting down to work. No one pays me for this. I don’t have co-workers or colleagues or patrons around me every day. I don’t have a boss I have to report to about my progress. This might sound great to you, and I’m not complaining about it, but it does mean that unless I’ve made an external commitment to something (like giving a talk or editing a book), what drives me is my own self-motivation. And that’s just not working right now. It’s also pretty likely that I’m going through a case of mild depression (not surprising, given the dreadful weather in this part of the U.S. lately). I go through this now and then, and I know the signs and what I should be doing about it. And I’m working on it.

I’m not bringing this up to try to elicit sympathy or support or anything like that. I just felt a certain obligation to explain why I’ve been so quiet lately. But there’s something else too. People tell me from time to time that they think I’m a “rock star” archivist or things like that. Which is flattering and everyone likes to get compliments, but that’s certainly not how I think of myself. Ever. And I thought it might be helpful, if only to a few people, to point out that if you sometimes look at people and think “Wow, she’s really got her shit together”and that makes you feel even a little bit bad about yourself, you shouldn’t. There probably are people who totally have their shit together and never feel self-doubt or like they are total screw-ups, but I’m betting they are few and far between. I’ve never felt qualified to be anybody’s role model or mentor, but if I can be a role model for people who feel kinda stuck and frustrated and depressed, that’s a role I might feel comfortable with! (By the way, a lot of great people have felt really crappy at times–here’s a helpful list from Wikipedia.)

As for me, I’m working through my issues and fully expect to be back to my “normal” enthusiastic, energetic, positive online (and in person) self pretty soon. But I’m not good at faking enthusiasm, so I think it’s better to own up to my problems and try to sort them out rather than forging ahead in a half-assed way. I’ve got the luxury to do that. For anyone who’s going through something similar who doesn’t have that luxury and still has to show up at work and fake being excited about being there, you’ve got my sympathy. I hope things get better for you, and I hope spring comes to all of us as soon as it possibly can!



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8 thoughts on “What’s next? A slight hitch in the proceedings”

  1. Hey Kate,
    This is helpful to me as I’m going through very similar struggles. I think we reflective types can be prone to melancholy. Maybe it’s because we see too much – and yet this is ultimately our strength.
    Maybe do something nice, just for yourself. I’m going to a greenhouse to read a book. Toronto’s weather is abysmally depressing at the moment.

  2. Kate, thanks for this honest post! I’ve been feeling zero motivation at work, which spirals me into all kinds of worry: is this what I should be doing, should I be looking for a new position, am I even good at this, etc. etc. When it’s probably a phase or the weather or something to that effect. So thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone! Good luck with your own journey.

  3. Hello Kate,

    Thanks for the articulate post on what is, as you say, a common experience. It is only more noticeable in ‘rock stars’ like yourself, because you aim at and achieve goals that most of us don’t attempt.

    I was going to say that I hope you hit your stride again soon, but this ‘low season’ is also your stride, part of the ebb and flow, perhaps a necessary balance; so I’ll just leave it at “keep well”.

  4. Thanks for writing this post, Kate. Sometimes it’s best not to push away things that may be bothering you by covering them up with work. They may come at you in a torrent at a really inopportune time.

  5. As often is the case, I blogged my response to your post. I explained why I started reading your blog, what the impact has been, and why your post about lacking motivation adds to the impact. You’ve long been a shining light for me. And part of shining a light forward requires acknowledging darkness. And yes, I include a photo of a well-known diva who got more clicks on her image in a prior post than any human being ever will! https://nixonara.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/to-be-golden/

  6. Kate: please know that you have many many (many!) admirers in the archives and related fields. Sounds like you need a break, even if you feel guilty about taking a break. February is the worst month for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and this one has been especially bleak. No pressure from your fans. We’ll be happy to see you when you feel like you’re ready. And please come to Boston for the MARAC/NEA meeting. It will be, as we say heah, supah.

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