Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Monster in the Middle

There's something else going on in the middle that prevents me from carrying on through to the end. Middles are not just non-stimulating; they can sometimes be downright frightening.

Because the ever-present anxiety is not as effectively muffled or distracted in the middle, it can reappear. The fear is like a basso-continuo in a music score. It's there, you can feel it, but not really notice it until the the other, busier, higher register instruments have stopped or quieted.

So more than any other phase of a project, the middle is where fear dwells. It's like a monster waiting in the clearing for me to cross, or like the enemy waiting to let loose on the troops who have to cross open ground to reach their objective. It's easier to stay where it's safe, but eventually I have to try to cross. Think of Pickett's charge at Gettysburg.  That's what moving through the middle is for me.

What to do about it? I'm working on that.

The Trouble with Middles

Lately I've been considering my trouble with middles.  I'm good at starting projects, but when I get past the "honeymoon" phase, I start to bog down and eventually stop (not quit, exactly) until the mood strikes me to take it back up again.  Of course, at that point it's more like a new beginning because I've been away from it for so long.

This attraction to starting things has to do with my brain chemistry, I think. I like beginnings because I'm learning things and my brain is focused on understanding and acquiring skills and knowledge. Once I get past that phase of rapid and stimulating learning, however, doing the project helps me less and less. And because my brain is not absorbed in something challenging, there is room for anxiety to creep in, anxiety which will need to be put aside in order to continue. So, since the now familiar activity is no longer giving me the help I need, the anxiety stops me from continuing.

But unfortunately, starting but never finishing projects is not very productive, especially with those projects I really want to finish. So I've been working on how I can help myself to push through the middle and get the satisfaction that comes with finishing something.

Those few projects I have finished were difficult to continue with, and when I was finished I had a feeling of relief, but also irritation that the project was so difficult to complete. I didn't get the satisfaction of having completed it because I was remembering how hard it was to slog through.

So there has to be a situation where I can keep going but still enjoy the doing of the project while I'm doing it, not just the joy of having done it, of getting it over with.