Sunday, 5 September 2010

The upside of post-viral fatigue

The last few weeks I've been plagued with post-viral fatigue. It's frustrating and boring and it sucks. But if there's any advantage to being forced to do nothing it's that it gives you time to think. Lying in bed, not being able to read or use your laptop or watch tv gives your mind free time to enter a world of your own making. Before you know it, the ideas start forming. New ideas and old ones you've rejected that come back in new clothes with new solutions. A quiet time, a quiet space where nothing else is going on is exactly what my mind needs to not only allow ideas to come to the surface but to take notice of them, absorb them, let them sink in and swim around a little.

Not having enough time to just sit and think is a major problem when you're working full-time and studying part-time. It's an even bigger problem when you're meant to be writing a manuscript. And it's the major conflict of my life, one I run into over and over again. Some may describe it as my 'life lesson'. I'm not going to dwell here on the psychological implications of having to be sick so I can get some time to pay attention to my creative side - no therapist's couch is needed to work out something that bleedingly obvious. But it's a continual source of frustration for me, nonetheless.

In the absence of a rich and generous benefactor, the solution is to stop time wasting activities. But we seem so geared towards always having to be doing something. And even when we know it's madness, we continue to do it. Scanning facebook and twitter for the latest interesting link because we can't bear to miss out on something (btw, people who follow thousands of people - why?). Always being plugged into something. British neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield says our obsession with being online 24/7 is rewiring our brains, not necessarily in a good way. I'm not a huge Greenfield fan but for me there's no doubt that being obsessed with always wanting to know the latest and the newest and the most interesting is distracting and can be death to ideas and creativity. Of course there are the times when something I find online inspires a new idea (like the meat house) or generates a new line of thought or enquiry. But it takes vigilance and discipline to find that balance between exploring and discovering and just wasting time.

Maybe this time I've learnt my lesson. Maybe this time I will stick to my schedule and not try to squeeze in extra things here and there that not only exhaust me physically but take time away from thinking. After all, what is Phd study for, if not to allow myself the time to think.