But. It's weird, because one of the things I've been thinking about a lot lately is that for as much anxiety and fear as I've felt in really getting going on Housewives and Hussies, I've also been pleasantly surprised that working on this is not at all like how I felt when beginning work on the dissertation. Let me count the ways in which it is infinitely more awesome:
- Virginia Woolf was right that you need money and a room of your own in order to write. Material conditions make a huge difference in what one can accomplish and how one feels about accomplishing it, whether we're talking about creatively or whether we're talking about scholarship. It makes a difference that I'm not constantly worried about money. It makes a difference that I'm not living in a crappy apartment (or, as I did for 3 months during the diss process, with my parents). It makes a difference that the material conditions of my life are not distracting me. In other words, I will never be interested in becoming some sort of starving artist or scholar. Not that I ever thought I would be, but seriously: far from thinking such a thing is romantic and awesome, I know now more than ever that for me it's misery. This is also why I never could have been a hippie.
- I have learned so much in the 10 years since I started dissertating, and a lot of what I've learned has happened since finishing my Ph.D. Teaching, and teaching the kind of students whom I teach and the number of courses that I teach, has given me depth and breadth and focus as a thinker that graduate school absolutely did not give me. I find that I have all of these resources in my brain that provide context for the thing that I'm thinking about and that I make connections so much more quickly than I did before. Weirdly, I think I kind of know a whole lot about what I'm talking about and like I might - at least a little - sort of be an expert.
- I've found my voice as a writer, and a lot of that has to do with blogging, but also it has to do with the confidence that comes from knowing that I've already done what I'm trying to do. Instead of being in a constant state of anxiety - will I get a job? Will anybody publish my scholarship? - I have the security of a job and a respectable cv. My life will not be over if this takes longer than I want or if it changes along the way.
- Nobody cares whether I write this book or not. In graduate school, a lot of people had an investment in me writing that dissertation and in how I wrote it, and that for me was not a good thing. I have been infinitely more interesting and more productive as a scholar since I left an environment where people gave a shit about research. The fact of the matter is, I do best when I feel like my research is nobody's business but my own - sort of like how my blog works for me because it doesn't "count" for anything. Once something counts, I begin to despise it. It stops being fun. This book is ridiculously fun to work on precisely because it's only for me and for nobody else.
- As much as not having some authority figure put the stamp of the approval on my idea is scary, I feel like I own this project because no one has done that. I finally feel like I'm a professional in my field and not somebody's student. And that, as much as it's scary, is really exhilarating.