My brain is back in that space where it almost hurts to think. When I work, normally, it’s as if I’ve projected everything I’m keeping in play out into space around me. I move around in that space, project the future, translate from code to action or visuals, and otherwise manipulate information in my head as I go. But on days like today, it can be hard to peel my brain off the back of my head and get it moving. Even after a satisfying and lengthy nap, I pull at it and I can almost feel it resisting me, stretching out in the direction I want and then snapping back away from it all. I can see where I want it to go, but somehow I’m stuck back behind me.
The funny thing is that it’s not a uniform problem. For example, today I couldn’t do XML. I had it in front of me, and I tried to look at it, and I couldn’t do the translation I needed in my head to imagine what it was actually saying. My first reaction was to feel frustrated and sorry for myself. I finally had a day to tackle a task I’ve been putting off and I couldn’t come near touching it. Additionally, it’s hard to get yourself back again (remission) and then lose it (relapse). I like being able to think. I want to go off and fight someone or something but there’s nothing to punch… And I am full time, right now, overcommitted, and facing a relapse. I can’t possibly manage it all if I wallow, so after complaining to a friend I reminded myself that I need to be strategic and pick a task my brain will allow even when I can’t read/translate– writing.
Writing has several advantages for me — for one, there’s all sorts of mindless work (like entering references) that I can use to take breaks. Secondly, in this case, I was doing a literature survey, which meant skimming a lot of papers. Mostly I had to read and comprehend the abstracts and then summarize the relevant stuff in a sentence or two. In principle I’d like to go deeper into each one, but I could accomplish a lot even without doing that. The papers that were most relevant were often exciting enough to get me past whatever is fuzzing my brain up. Also, they could be processed in small chunks (read a paragraph or two, take a break by summarizing that paragraph or entering a reference, read some more, summarize, etc.).
I’m lucky that writing comes easily, because by the end of the day I had managed to trick my brain into producing text without moving it off the back of my head. It’s like looking sideways at something that’s to bright to stare at, and I’ll probably want to rewrite what I produced, but it moved the document forward and it’s at least useable. The best part is, I’m ending the day with a sense of accomplishment instead of despair.