Sunday, July 29, 2007

False Starts

Ok, so this is now my fourth attempt at starting this post.

What the fuck is going on with me?

It's not that I'm not in the mood to blog. I am. It's not that I don't have anything to write about. I do. But at the same time, I'm having the problem of actually committing to anything that I write here, and this has been a problem I've been experiencing for the past week or so. I start to write a blog post, and I either start it over and over again, or I just leave off, saving it as a draft (and I never draft blog posts), only to delete it later.

Again, it's not that I don't have anything to write or that I don't want to write. If those were the issues, I'd not be so concerned. I think instead it's more a problem of how to project what I want to write into the world. This is sometimes a problem for me when I've been reading a lot, which I have been doing lately, and particularly when the reading that I'm doing has a voice so strong that it overwhelms my own voice. When you read in big bursts, and when there are these explosions of ideas in your head in which you're making connections and making notes about directions that you will take based on your reading, it's difficult to switch back into yourself, or at least it is for me. And so no matter how much one has to say, it's easy to get lost, to lose the thread, and to forget how to project one's own voice out into language.

And so lately, the writing that I've been doing here has not really reflected all of the things that I've been preoccupied with thinking about, which I think shows. And the other writing that I've been doing has tended to be of the administrative and bureaucratic variety that course syllabi and assignments demand. Again, this writing hasn't had much to do with what has been rattling around in my head. And so this post is about trying to get back to "real" writing, something I've got to do if I'm to do the kind of work I need to do in the next two weeks on the book and on other revision-type things that are coming due in the next month.

It occurs to me that this maybe has always been my problem when I'm immersed in the research side of this job. "Research" of the variety that I do (for I am not an archival scholar by any stretch of the imagination) pretty much can be boiled down to close reading. I take a literary text, and I throw myself into it, and then I have ideas about it, and then I look at theory and secondary stuff to flesh out the ideas that I have. The problem is, when one makes it her business to immerse herself in literary texts, she can sometimes lose herself in the text. This may be a testament to what Coleridge has to say about great writing having the ability to produce a willing suspension of disbelief in the reader, but sometimes I think that I willingly suspend just a smidgen too far. This is good for the thinking part of things, but it's bad for the writing part of what I've got to do when the thinking is done. It's also not good for the parts of my life that don't have to do with ideas. I shut people out, not because I don't want them around, but because I don't know how to explain the mental space I'm inhabiting. I don't know how to explain that I lapse into periods where I'm living almost entirely in my head. And that the only things I really have to talk about are things related to what's going on in my head, which really, aren't all that compelling when the other person isn't reading what I'm reading and thinking what I'm thinking.

So I was thinking about concluding with a synopsis of all of the stuff I've been thinking about. And this is my fourth or fifth start on this paragraph in which I was going to do that, because, it occurs to me now, I'm embarrassed. Whew! This paragraph was much longer, but I decided to delete what followed now that I've hit on this crucial revelation about myself. Yep, I'm embarrassed by what I work on, both in the classroom and out of it. And as in all embarrassing situations, the only thing for it is to rock it out and to pretend one isn't embarrassed and to just do the damned thing.

5 comments:

MathBloke said...

DrC, I love your blog, but I don't get it. I'm in a completely different field (at a similar university and in a field with many of the same external pressures), but I don't understand how immersion in a text can leave you so... isolated?

But you should never be embarrassed. Just live it, wherever it takes you :)

Margi said...

Well, I am in your field, and I for one totally get what you're saying here, and I thank you for putting so precisely a state-of-being that I periodically experience as well.

Margo, darling said...

Wow, Crazy, I'm totally intrigued by your embarrassed comment. I think I get it. I think I feel it a lot, too. Say more.

Terri said...

i feel like this almost every summer after prolonged periods of reading novels and literary theory. it's sort of like going into extended shutdown--not aggressively avoiding people, but just sort of spending lots of time alone thinking.

at least in your case you have written a book. i haven't written anything substantial in a while, and i'm starting to worry. . . . . .

Tiruncula said...

I totally understand about being inside one's own mental space - for better and worse. I feel like I'm carrying around ideas and bits of not-yet-written prose that are as fragile as eggs, and nobody better jostle me while I'm shuttling them back and forth on spoons.