Dispatches from a Distance: The Process of Reinvention

This is the fifth of our Dispatches from a Distance, a series of short posts intended as a forum for those of us facing disruption in our professional lives, whether that’s working from home or something else, to stay engaged with the community. There is no specific topic or theme for submissions–rather, this is a space to share your thoughts on current projects or ideas which, on any other day, you might have discussed with your deskmate or a co-worker during lunch. These don’t have to be directly in response to the Covid-19 outbreak (although they can be). Dispatches should be between 200-500 words and can be submitted here.


Nicole Becwar

In my position as a librarian and an archivist, I never lack tasks or projects. What I love about my job is that, if I am tired of working on one project, I can always switch to another. This semester I also worked most evenings and weekends, contending with an overload of service commitments. I was hanging on until the end of March when my commitments would scale back.

In March, just as my university was making preparations to move all classes online, I got sick. I was out for over a week, and I emerged to a very different world. Conferences started cancelling, including several presentations I was preparing for. University service work came to a halt, and I began to work entirely from home.

Two things happened. First, all of my normal tasks and routines ended. Then my supervisor, knowing the difficulty I had fitting professional writing into my work life, told me to focus on writing. As a project-oriented introvert whose professional writing goals were neglected, this was a gift. Yet I didn’t anticipate that having this opportunity would be one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted to accomplish. Even though I am managing concerns about the virus and the economy fairly well, I have developed a sense of futility about my work and place in the universe, and I have now learned how skilled I am at avoiding writing. Trying to write makes me feel as though I am trying to swim through mud. I am not sure if that is due to my fear of writing, due to the psychological task of trying to write during a pandemic, or both. 

Moving forward and being productive is a process of reinvention for me. Here are some things that are helping. 

Creating a new daily routine. Routines are grounding, yet my “old” routine is useless. Questions I now have: should I change before beginning work? Is it okay to wake up, make coffee, and go straight to the computer? Does this help me feel like I’m in work mode? Creating a new pre-work and work schedule focuses my intent. 

Setting goals: my norm is trying to creatively fit deadlines into limited time slots, like a puzzle. I am finding that without looming deadlines, I’ve lost the sense of urgency, and I need to set goals. One of the ways that I avoid writing is to continue researching, so I have had to set daily goals about what constitutes real progress. 

Staying connected. Remaining connected, particularly meetings with coworkers and committees have been important to my sanity. Some meetings are entirely devoted to checking in. Some are routine meetings that provide a sense of normalcy and stability. 

I know that my current position is a privileged one—not all information professionals, let alone all individuals, are able to work from home and receive a paycheck. Yet, this is my process, and I am mucking through it.

One thought on “Dispatches from a Distance: The Process of Reinvention

  1. Louise May 14, 2020 / 9:20 am

    Hi Nicole, thanks for being so open about your experience, one that I think a lot of us can relate to right now. Something that I think really resonates with this whole situation is the idea of a New Normal. As you so aptly put, our old routines just aren’t cutting it anymore. And although this new structure of time might, in theory, seem like a blessing to work on those projects we have been putting off, we must remember that mentally, this is something we were not prepared for and there will surely be a learning curve to adjust our mindset and routines.

    Personally, I have found that my state of mind changes almost daily and it is a matter of waking up, listening to how I am feeling and how busy my mind is, and deciding from there how I want to tackle the day. Some days I am craving the comfort of my soft couch, so I move my workspace there. For example, right now I am working from my living room floor — it seemed much more inviting than my rigid desk.

    We are all learning, growing, and changing at a rapid pace these days. I wish you the best of luck with your writing and remember to be gentle with yourself!

    Like

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