Sunday, August 5, 2012


I had an anxiety dream last night. Most such dreams for me tend to use thinly-veiled substitution (I often dream about going into an exam I haven't prepared for, or realising I have an essay due and it's not started). Breaking with tradition, this dream was a brutally straightforward pictorial representation of my barely-subconscious worries about my current work project.

I dreamed I was in a room with a bunch of the people I'm currently working for / with, and they were telling me how rubbish the documents I'd produced were, how they wanted to scrap them all and start again, and how much of a waste of money my services had been.

Obviously, the dream was a vastly, luridly, exaggerated version of what I worry about, even below the surface. I have enough connection to reality (and have had enough feedback already, mostly positive) to be aware that the work I'm producing is *not* all rubbish, and is heading in the right direction. I don't have any expectation of having all the documents rejected holus bolus, or of being excoriated in a public place, despite my unpleasant dream.

But I do have performance anxiety, oh yes I do, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

We're 9 weeks into this project now, slightly more than halfway through the drafting process, and at the stage where everything is hard and it's all overwhelming and like running full pelt through molasses. All the low-hanging fruit - the easier, more straightforward documents - has been picked, and I'm now reaching very deep to deal with the difficult bits. Drafts are in varying stages of completion, and data is trickling, dribbling or pouring in (depending on the day and source).

The other thing is - and I knew this would happen - having spent a lot to time reading references and talking to people, I now know enough to be aware of the depth of my own ignorance with the subject matter of these documents. I feel very foolish, often, as clever, knowledgeable people gently and kindly correct my errors of assumption or extrapolation. I have to remind myself daily that I was not hired as a subject area expert, but as a writer - the core expertise I'm selling them is my ability to write coherent, engaging prose that addresses criteria in the most effective way.

I want to do this work well. Come October, and hand-over of the completed draft, I want the client to be satisfied with what's been achieved, and happy they brought me in to work on it. I want the second phase of the project, the editing / revising stage from October til December, to be a more relaxed one for all of us, because (I hope! I hope!) only minor revisions and expansions are required.

I think I can do it, but I worry I can't, and clearly, that worry's sunk deep into my brain. It makes me feel even more sympathetic to the Australian Olympians - the pressure inside one's own head can be so severe, can so easily block capacity and self-belief (and, thus, achievement). More than half the work of ... work ... takes place in the self-talk, for me, anyway.

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