But I don't actually feel badly about it. See, I'm waiting for a guy to come and measure my basement door so that I can get a new door put in, since the one I've got is ridiculous (as in, you can see the sunlight coming through where there should be a door jamb. It's really dumb to try to work when you know you're going to be interrupted, so I am cutting myself some slack.
I've also remembered some important things about me and summer and work. Like, for example, nearly every summer when I've had major research productivity, I haven't really begun in earnest until the end of June. It always takes me a few weeks to settle into the summer, and also, I think I do need the pressure of feeling like I don't have the whole summer stretching out before me. I've also remembered that even though I'm not technically "working" during this time, I have been doing a boatload of thinking, which means that when I sit down to work I do have a sense of where I need to go. And also, the hatred of the time I'm spending watching TV and not accomplishing anything? All part of the process.
But now on to the next topic. I wanted to address the many suggestions I've gotten that I should sit down with a good book and relax, read a novel, etc. A lot of these suggestions have come from people outside of English, so I want to talk a little bit about how my field affects my reading habits. This is not true for all people in English, but I think it's true for many of us, esp. if we study fairly contemporary stuff and/or teach across a wide range of fields.
I cannot read literature for pleasure. Not if I'm working on a project, whether that's developing a new course or a new research project. See, what you folks think of as "fun" reading? Yeah, um, that's totally my job. And if I read something that's somewhat decent that is fiction, I feel massive amounts of guilt for not reading the stuff that I "should" be reading. And then, if I read the kind of stuff that I can read for pleasure - crappy chick lit, gruesome thrillers, etc. - I then feel like I'm a loser who is totally an intellectual zombie because everybody else takes the opportunity to read things that enrich their soul or something when they've got time to read.
The only kind of reading I can really do for pleasure without hating myself is non-fiction stuff. I'm in the middle of Heat now, as I mentioned, and I'm also in the middle of this book. This is good bedtime reading, but I can't get too terribly involved in this sort of reading, not to the point where I can while away a whole day doing it.
Ok. Think of it this way. Let's say you're a historian, and when you have been obsessing about work, everybody recommends to you that you read things like John Adams by David McCullough to unwind. Or, barring that, that you watch PBS historical documentaries. Or let's say "hey! go to some archives just for fun!" Now, don't get me wrong, you love history, but is that really going to take your mind off the work you're not doing? Not likely.
See, that's the dirty secret of going to graduate school to study what you love. It means that it's no longer a source of relaxation when you're feeling stressed out. This is not to say that it's not a source of pleasure - of course it is - or that you don't enjoy it - you do - but when I read a Margaret Atwood or A.S. Byatt novel, I take notes, people. It's work - not relaxation - even if it might be fun.
Again, I don't think that this is necessarily a problem for all people in my field. I know that my Medievalist and Early Modern friends read things for fun all the time that would count as literature. Also people who focus primarily on poetry or drama. But when I talk to people who do what I do, I find that many of us have the problem that I'm describing.
Ok, off to go do some stuff around the house while I wait for the door measurement guy.
1 year ago