Productivity pressures during COVID-19

If you’d have told me 2 months ago that I was going to get 8 weeks and possibly more of free time to write and do whatever I want, I would have jumped at the challenge to bash out the next King Lear. I’m only talking about King Lear above all the other plays because everyone keeps banging on about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine…

But now, 7 weeks in, I find myself feeling disappointed. Not because I haven’t written, but because I haven’t pushed myself to write about other subjects I care about. This whole COVID-19 crisis has made me so angry, mainly due to the government’s poor response here in the UK. Everyday I think about writing something about it – my drafts folder on my blog is full of unpublished things I’ve written in the heat of the moment. But for some reason I’ve found that writing about politics and COVID-19 is so hard, I lack clarity when I write, and the ability to form a coherent argument. This is something I did over and over again whilst studying history at university, and because of this – I feel I should be able to do it with more ease.

I’ve been loving writing book reviews – but anything beyond this has been impossible. And I’m annoyed as I could have used this time more wisely – but the words just won’t flow. There are so many things I feel I want to say about COVID-19 but don’t know how to say them. With pushing back my MA for another year, I feel I ought to be ceasing every moment to write and expand my horizons but I lack the confidence to pitch to other media organisations and websites. Why would they want to hear from me? Why is my opinion or outlook any different? But at the same time, I know I could be using this time to work on it. And I know what I have to say does matter too. Self doubt is a real thing, isn’t it?

I keep telling myself it is ultimately fine, as I am still writing and thinking about what I want to write, even if I’m not always getting pen to paper. Or fingertips to keys, however you want to look at it. Being unproductive, and lacking the will to write is ultimately okay – the pressure we put on ourselves can outweigh the energy and creativity that we initially have. The pressure can manifest itself in self doubt, anxiety and lack of motivation – and that’s definitely what I’ve been feeling at the moment. I know I need to be less hard on myself, but it is easier said than done. And I know I don’t need to write the next King Lear(it’s not even the best Shakespeare, lets be honest…)

Image: Pixabay

COVID is here to stay, I don’t think we’ll be only living with it for the remainder of the year, but far beyond. It will become the, “new normal” as they keep saying, thus, I’ve got to get over this writing barrier. Maybe it’s my distance spent from the mental challenge that academia used to bring. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we are in the middle of a global pandemic not seen on the same scale since 1918, and it is really really hard to motivate yourself to do anything meaningful.

There’s so much pressure in the media and online to make something of yourself during this time, to lose weight, to get fit, to write a book, to bake – and it’s hard when your outcomes do not live up to these false expectations. Because it is not just “free time” it’s a hard time – where everything we have been used to have been taken away from us. Where we cannot access those small comforts we once had, and where our days lack the routine that working life usually brings.

On a serious note – the pressure to make something of this time is real and felt by many. It’s something that I need to shift to the back of my mind and not let cloud my passion for writing. But at times like these, which are very unique and surreal, it is hard to do, and this should be spoken about more. If anyone says to me, “what did you do whilst in quarantine?” and scoffs at my lack of achievements, then they must be the biggest superhero in the world, as this is one of the hardest times – and we shouldn’t treat it as a pathway to guaranteed productivity. And guess what? It’s actually okay to not be doing anything. Especially if that means we take that pressure off ourselves.

What we do with out time isn’t some kind of productivity competition over who can achieve the most – and it is easy to see it as this, when we are all spending more time on social media, which portrays life through a golden haze. But it is a time where we should banish the ideas and pressures behind “productivity” all together. It’s a word that is constantly bashed around in media and academic discourse, but once we free ourselves from its reigns, we may actually find ourselves better off.

January round-up

Image: Violet Daniels

So how was January?

I’m writing this with very mixed feelings. Most of January felt like an endless slog. Everyday I had a new rejection and the weight of not being able to find a job took its toll.

However, today (on the last day of the month) I have found out that I have secured a job, so hooray! I no longer have to feel like a complete mess.

As many people say, January always feels like the worst month of the year. My first experience of 2020 wasn’t great. I sent out nearly 100 job applications and got rejected from most of them, I have had many rejections from national newspapers (again) and have generally felt a bit lost.

I still don’t know what to do about finding this ‘career’ us graduates are expected to get… but I still have time so that’s what matters.

But what I have felt happy about, and inspired by, is this blog. This blog may still be small and insignificant but compared to what it started out as, at the beginning of the month, I feel very proud. I started 2020 with just 19 followers, I now have nearly 30. Over the course of the month, I have achieved 251 new views and 47 likes on posts I have written. The numbers are small in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, it is progress.

I have realised that posting regularly and engaging within the WordPress community, really plays a big role in building up a following. My writing on here isn’t solely about gaining some kind of reception. I write above all, for me. I find this little corner of the internet that I have crafted myself, somewhat reassuring in times when I feel lonely and losing hope. I know I will always be able to bash out a blog post and feel a sense of achievement (even if it’s a bad one!)

After struggling over the past three years at university with reading for pleasure, I managed to read five books this month, but yes, I am still persevering with Ducks, Newburyport (will it ever end?).

Above all, this month I obtained my degree – which was quite a special moment, and one which drew a line under my time at university. It was a bittersweet day, but one I shall always remember. Although I feel panicked because I am officially a graduate, I am becoming more okay with the idea that I have no idea what I am doing, sort of.

This month I also finally got back into exercising regularly (cliche I know, as so has everyone else by the state of my gym) and feel far better for it. Lifting weights has always given me a sense of mental clarity.

However, this month, and this day in particular, is tinted with a bit of sadness for me. Today is the final day that Britain will be part of the E.U. I voted to remain and will always hold the view that Britain is better when it is part of a more global and outward looking community. But, I know that I have to put these views aside so that the country can attempt to try and move forward from the political rupture that was created. I just hope that he doesn’t make too much of a mess of it.

I feel at odds with the Labour party and have no idea who to vote for in the coming months. My heart leans towards Rebecca Long Bailey but none of the contenders fill me with the same amount of hope, passion and inspiration as Jeremy Corbyn did when I was 17. Part of me just doesn’t know what to think…

January had its ups and downs, but I am very glad to be ending it on a positive note. by securing a job. Onward and upwards as they say!

Quote of the month

“Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let us not forget this.”

Dave Eggers

Graduation (a reflection)

Over last weekend, I managed to successfully graduate from the University of York and obtain my degree certificate.

It was a successful experience on the whole. I managed to climb the stairs in sync with the processions of the ceremony, had the correct name read out alongside my degree, and didn’t manage to trip on my way down. I was relived when I could sit back in my seat and enjoy the rest of the ceremony without having to worry if I would make it up and down in one piece.

After the ceremony came the onslaught of photographs – both professional and ones taken by my parents. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. It isn’t often that the sun shines so brightly in the North of England – but it did on the 24th.

Sitting in central hall, surrounded by so many others – PhD’s, Masters and Bachelors, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was. Every person in that room had to put up a fight and keep themselves going throughout the pursuit of something they love. Seeing the array of mortar boards worn by people of any age, was incredibly inspiring (and I definitely hadn’t expected it to be.)

This may have been my first graduation – but I don’t expect it to be my last. If I can summon up the resources to finance another stint in education that is…

I feel a sense of sadness when I realise that last Friday were my last moments at the University of York as a student. But I also feel a huge sense of achievement and closure. My graduation was a long time coming, due to the delaying of my final exams. But now I can draw a firm line below my undergraduate life.

I’ll be honest, I don’t currently know what’s around the corner, but who really ever does?

trying to find work (as a graduate)

Image: Pixabay

So, it’s been a week or so since this series was launched. This post will probably not be as optimistic as my last, since it has been a week of failed job applications and applying for internships without hearing any responses. But hey, I’m just trying to keep this portrayal of post-student life real.

Alas, I am still trying to fight of a sinus infection and shift the constant runny nose and coughing up mucus (icky I know). My head feels heavy from all the antibiotics and I can’t help but spend half the time yearning to have a properly functioning throat and nose again.

They say that applying for jobs should be treated as a full-time job, and I very much agree. It is so time consuming writing a cover letter for every position, researching the company and filling out the various forms required for that application. But also, it is incredibly draining. And the worst of it is – 9/10 you will never hear back and when you do, it’s a big fat rejection.

What I find frustrating too is the assumption that anybody and everybody lives in London. Obviously, there are far more opportunities in the big city, but no scheme factors in the costs of doing unpaid experience for two weeks which could cost you an arm and leg just for the commute. Thus, a pile of money is needed in the first place.

I am turning away from pleaing for work experience and un-paid internships, as it is simply unaffordable. Instead, I have been applying for paid graduate schemes in publishing on the off chance they might like my sheer enthusiasm for books and forget about my imminent lack of experience. *sighs*

A part of me also still wants to pursue a career in journalism but getting experience (at any level) has almost proved impossible too. The constant empty applications, unanswered emails and phone calls from various editors has simply left me feeling down about it all. It’s a career I would love to have a chance at, but I can’t help but feel from my small experience, it is one locked away for the few.

And it would be quite nice to have a job on the side of all this to keep me going – but that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon either. And I’ve only got one pay check left from my last job….

January is going well so far, as you can tell. Only ten days until I graduate – then the lack of prospects will well and truly kick in.

Onwards and upwards, as they say 🙂

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Diary of a graduate (p.1)

Image: Yours truly (Violet Daniels)
A nice hazy sky and some trees

Some observant followers may have noticed my blog getting a nice revamp in recent days. But I suspect most of you probably haven’t noticed (I probably wouldn’t have).

Delving into WordPress premium is part of my (sort of New Years resolution but not as I don’t really believe in all that) decision to really invest in this blog.

Countless failed attempts to get work experience in journalism and writing has made me realise that maybe I need to just try and make it on my own… somehow?! At least if I don’t have experience, I may have this.

So January is a big month for me – I am finally graduating from the University of York with a Bachelor’s degree in History; only five or six months later than planned. When this is published, I won’t have graduated yet but I thought I would give some kind of background to where I am now,

If I’m honest, I’m not really looking forward to the process and would like it over with sooner rather than later. Just let me grab my certificate and run… I suppose the experience of wearing that funny hat is what really matters.

If I’m honest, when I think back to my degree it almost feels like a lifetime ago, and that I was living in some hazy, alternate reality far away from life as it is now. I do miss the constant learning and academic rigor that came with my degree. Part of me thinks I am not quite done with studying yet, which may be another path for me to go down (if I can pay off my already acquired student overdraft)…

As my graduation looms ahead of me like a dark cloud, I can’t help but feel like I need to kick myself in gear a bit more in terms of my ‘career’, as I can no longer claim I am a student after January.

September to December were some really good months for me, I was working in a bookshop which I loved but now that temporary job is over and I am once again unemployed and have not had any luck with finding work.

I guess this ‘diary of a graduate’ series is an attempt to convey the realities of post university life as a young adult trying to find their ways into the world. I will be documenting my struggles, experiences and any successes I may have, in a hope to convey the reality of life after university and a graduate trying to find whatever is meant to be next.

I will also be documenting my attempts to get experience in the writing/journalism/publishing industry. It may be of interest, it may not but I feel like it might be worthwhile even if it is just a personal document for me.

That’s it for part one – I hope at least one person enjoyed this 🙂

V

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