An anxiety-free Monday

Regular readers will know that I hate Mondays more than any other day of the week. Somehow the relaxation over the weekend pretty reliably convinces my brain that it’s completely stupid, and doesn’t know shit. On Sunday evenings, I already feel the nerves for starting up again on Monday… What if I fuck it all up this week. You never know, right. It might just happen this week… One week’s gotta be the first, no?

With this in mind, it may not be such a surprise that I don’t like emails on Monday morning either. Some Mondays people have been busy on the weekend, shoving stuff on my plate. (Can’t y’all do this on Wednesdays or whatever?) This morning, however, I started up with an email from the editors at Basic and Applied Ecology. ‘We’re happy to inform you that your manuscript has been accepted for publication.’ Now, that’s the kind of stuff I need on Monday mornings. Well, certainly not every Monday morning, but on a few Monday mornings distributed evenly over the year would do me good.

This manuscript has been particularly interesting for me. In fact, it’s one of the reasons that this blog exists. The manuscript is a piece I was invited to write by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief somewhere in the summer of 2020. I still don’t fully understand why this happened, but it happened. I was kind of overwhelmed by the question, to be honest. Me? Write a solo author piece? Forget it. I’m the kind of jackass that benefits greatly from having many co-authors to get my thinking straight. I seriously considered declining the invitation, but then someone said that if this person believed I could write this, I probably really could, and should.

The last two months of 2020 I regularly used an early or late hour to create a framework, and fill the gaps. I was running a light pollution experiment at the time, and will likely continue to do so in the future, so it only made sense to write something about light pollution, and something that related to my work on plant-mediated interactions. A story was born, and the manuscript quickly took shape.

Over the Christmas holidays, I finished the piece, and I asked my boss if he would do a friendly review, which he happily agreed to. His words were positive, but he also had quite some critical remarks on the structure, and some suggestions on how to make it better. In January this year I was struggling to find the time to work on it, I had anyway struggled over the months prior to that. This made me think I should do something about that. If I wanted to practice writing, I should work on perfecting the art. Words don’t write themselves, and without doing, there’s no learning. Not in writing…

There was another aspect I was struggling with on this particular manuscript. Submitting was horrible. I always feel horrible about things I submit. I guess this is part of who I am, but my average manuscript gets checked by six to ten co-authors. They may not iron out all the silliness, but at least they will improve most of it. With this particular solo piece, I’m not so sure. Did my boss, a professor that is notorious for having very little time, seriously read everything word for word? Would he iron out my dumbest of mistakes? I wasn’t sure, and I really did not like submitting the piece one bit. Anxiety struck again and again. I felt that I needed to do something about this too…

And so it was that roughly a week before submission, I started this daily blog. I had two main purposes. First, improving my writing skills, and keeping them trained. Second, learning how to deal with submission every single day. I promised myself I would post it to Twitter, for others to read. This version of public self-shaming on Twitter (or that’s what submissions feel like to me at least) would hopefully help me get over the fear of submission.

So here I am. About 270 posts in, I haven’t missed a day (on two days I had sketchy internet, and had to post a day late, a double-post). I still feel anxious about submitting sometimes. I notice that it’s worse with more controversial topics, although I think my words are generally not poking the hornets’ nest. But I certainly believe the anxiety has mellowed a little, and may not come as a surprise that I recommend everyone to start a blog.

And for my manuscript, well, I still don’t know. Two reviewers were really positive, and so was the editor. It can’t be that bad right? I’m still not sure if it was worth all the anxiety and imposter syndrome acting up. In any case, I’m happy it is now accepted as my first solo authorship manuscript. I’m happy I had a Monday morning without anxiety. We’ll see how this manuscript does. I’ll share it once is out. Feel free to let me know you like it (and feel free to zip it if you don’t).

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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