To Do (or Not To Do)Posted: September 20, 2011
During my undergraduate degree I took a class on “Philosophical approaches to English”, in which we read Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals – the art of the snappy title not being Immanuel’s strong suit. Other than the term “categorical imperative” (which I’ve forgotten the definition of, but which once allowed me to appear intelligent during an episode of University Challenge), what stayed with me was an idea about means and ends. Kant argued that it is unethical to treat any person – including yourself – as no more than a means to an end. The lecturer, who was fantastic at translating complex theory into memorable anecdotes, explained that “if you find yourself becoming a function of your own ‘To Do’ list, you’re probably not acting ethically.”
Ah, the To Do list: memento of the incomplete, the under-achieved, the abandoned. Professor Bristol’s maxim on its potential for tyranny has proved useful over the years, most recently in relation to Lipstick and Teeth. In the short time since I started this blog, I’ve learned some important things:
1. I really, really like writing. A lot.
2. There are people out there who like reading the things I have written.
What joyous discoveries! And yet, you may have noticed a rather long absence. That may have something to do with:
3. I want to publish things I feel are written to a standard I can be proud of.
4. Writing to that standard takes time.
5. I have a full and busy life, and blogging is one of many priorities. At times of particular pressure, those priorities will just have to play nicely and take it in turns.
It has been so incredibly exciting to see my number of readers growing, to get comments and incoming links from people I don’t know, to have great feedback from people I respect and admire. The flip side of that is the sense of panic that, for me, almost invariably accompanies any kind of achievement, which goes something like this: ohmygodnowIhavetokeepdoingthiswellnowpeopleexpectthatinfactIshouldstartdoingitbetterotherwiseI’ll justbeahugefailureandeveryonewho’sseenmeachievingwillrealiseactuallydeepdownI’mabigfailure
I like to call this voice my inner Screaming Monkey. She’s a whole lot of fun, let me tell you. She’d like me to write every day, publish three in-depth articles per week, submit pieces to other websites, read all the daily newspapers from cover to cover and stay abreast of current developments in feminist theory while I’m at it. She doesn’t really care if I sleep, eat properly, or am actually happy, so long as I’m achieving. And you know what her number one tool of oppression is? That unforgiving, pass/fail inventory of life: my To Do list.
In busy, stressed-out periods, everything becomes a chore to be ticked off and I start treating myself as a means to an end. When Lipstick and Teeth found its way onto my To Do list, I knew it was time to take a deep breath and a step back. Immanuel Kant told me so.
This is a very new project. So far it’s been a lot of fun, and I want to keep it that way. My priority is to stay in touch with the joy of writing – when I’m giving myself a hard time about not having posted for too long, that joy goes out of the window. I like Lipstick and Teeth. I want to do it; I don’t want to have To Do it.
I am so grateful for the support and attention I have had so far and would love for you to keep reading. I see that lots of people have been patiently checking in over my quiet last few weeks; if you’d rather avoid this lately-disappointing ritual, you are most welcome to subscribe – then you will get an email whenever I publish something new. I promise I’ll get back to feminism next time!