I have several comfort zones, actually. I expect everybody does.
If I’m just peacefully cataloguing away, a couple of hours will see a good pile of music or books catalogued and subject-indexed, but who knows what my subconscious mind might have come up with simultaneously.
Or I can be writing (or talking) about something research-related, contentedly making connections between different aspects of my subject, with a tea or a coffee on the desk in front of me.
Or browsing fabric in my favourite haberdashery store – this is a bit Sheldon-Cooper-esque, I grant you, but at least it’s fabrics and patterns, rather than superhero comic-books.
Or enjoying music as a practitioner or audience, or going to an art-gallery. ‘These are a few of my favourite things’. (Sorry, I should have given you a footnote. It’s a song from The Sound of Music, composed by Richard Rodgers. I know my citation etiquette!)
Did I say writing, though? I did, didn’t I? I absolutely love writing – at least as much as I love music and my musicology research. A couple of months ago, I saw an invitation to contribute encyclopedia articles to a new publication. There are lots of articles and a book on my CV, but no encyclopedia articles – this had to be a great idea. I wasn’t sure I was the right ‘fit’ for the publication, but I offered, was sent a list of topics, chose two, offered, and within fifteen minutes max, I had a contract. Does this sound too easy? Believe me, it WAS too easy. It was so easily done that I had those contracts filed in a ring-binder in no time at all. Then told myself I had *ages*, and decided I’d maybe do it while I was on my summer vacation.
It didn’t happen. You can’t take two teenage boys down to visit their grandmother, then desert them all to go and research encyclopedia articles.
Back I went to work, still with two months before the deadline. All I had to do was gather together my thoughts and write the articles. I gathered my thoughts, certainly. Still it didn’t happen. I began to wonder if I really could write on those topics, but there was no going back – I’d said I would write them, and write them I would. As I got nervous about the whole thing, I began to buy fabric and make dresses and patchwork cushions at an alarming rate. Isn’t procrastination wonderful? I have a wardrobe full of new dresses and a couple of jackets, and two friends – three if you count the friend who got one in July – have new cushions.
Finally, as September approached, I realised it was time to hit the panic button (or grow up, depending how you look on it). I booked a week off, and started reading Bishop Percy on English minstrelsy. The Friday before my week off, I borrowed a couple of books, and – with my spouse coincidentally off down south to visit friends – I contemplated starting work in earnest. By having some early nights! So this is what they mean by going beyond your comfort zone.
Now the pressure was on. However, I do work better that way. By Wednesday morning that week, I had written, edited and filed the first 2000 word article. By Friday I had a pile of notes and print-outs for the second, but I went back to work and raided the appropriate shelves for more reading matter. Largely because I couldn’t walk back into the library this week and admit defeat, I completed the second by 23.30 on Sunday night. I filed it on Monday evening, once I’d checked it for diacriticals and reference formating.
I’d like to say this has been character-forming. That I’ve ventured outside my comfort-zone, and am a better person for having done so. I’m realistic enough to know that there is bound to be editing to be done, so I can’t say I’ve finished yet, but it does feel good having filed two articles, each exactly two thousand words long, three weeks before the deadline. I suppose the only question is, what will drag me beyond my comfort zone next? Suggestions, anyone?