Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Good morning, readers. So, in case you were wondering, the problem with doing as much long-hand writing as I do on the front end of a project - particularly when I'm in the nutso place where I'm over-doing it, as I have been in the past couple of days, is that it hurts. Well, and then there is the tingling and the hand weakness, too, but the hurting is the one that really gets me down. Now, you might say, but why don't you type your notes instead, you dummy? Well, the fact of the matter is that while my left hand/wrist is not as grievously afflicted as my right, I have the same symptoms in both hands when I type for long stretches of time. There is no escaping the carpal tunnel. And so, I'm an old lady who has to bust out the wrist splint (or splints, if I'm experiencing the symptoms in both hands) and pop some @dvil or @leve and then I need to take it easy so as not to be thoroughly miserable forever. I know that someday I'll end up having to have stupid hand surgery unless I stop writing all together. I just hope that day is a long way away, and thus the managing the syndrome with the splints and the mandatory rest, etc.

So, today I'm not allowed to do much typing or long-hand note-taking. Instead, I'm going to wear my stupid splint (just typing right now is making my hand/wrist hurt again) and spend the day reading (still for NB, but things that I don't need to take copious notes on either in hand-written or typed form - things that are more under-line-y) I also may do some chores around the house and pay bills.

In other news, I actually wrote a couple of pages single-spaced (typed) yesterday, which are pinning down my argument sorts of pages. I'm feeling pretty psyched about my progress.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts and Stuff

I feel like my titles for posts suck lately. This is partly because I'm not really doing posts with clearly defined topics lately - all of my "clearly defined topic" mojo is being directed at NB.

The thing I've been thinking about over the past couple of days is how doing a major project like this intersects with the other parts of one's life. Heck - even non-major projects, like journal articles, do for me tend to intersect with (or complicate?) the other parts of my life. For me, there isn't a whole lot of separation between the things I'm thinking about in research and the ups and downs of my personal/emotional life, to be more specific. And when I think over sort of "crucial moments" in my intellectual life, they do tend to parallel big shifts in my emotional life....

I don't know whether that's good, bad, or neutral. I would tend to think it's bad a lot of the time - that doing major thinking fucks with my head and then it fucks with my relationships with people by extension. But or, really, it could be good-ish, in that maybe if major thinking can fuck something in my life up, that something probably shouldn't be central in my life? Probably it's all neutral, a wash.

But I do often find myself wishing pretty frequently that I were a different sort of person and that I didn't take the thinking/research stuff so personally. Wishing that I just viewed it as one more part of the job and not as this life-changing thing that touches every other part of my life, whether I want it to or not. I'm trying really hard in this go-around to be honest about this with people in my life, and to try to be honest with myself when I start acting like an asshole about what the reasons for that really are. I'm trying really hard not to use the people in my life to work out my intellectual angst. It's not easy, though. My impulse is to deflect any intellectual angst onto the people in my life, and seriously, there are very few people in my life who have been able to forgive me for that or who have been able to stand up to the pressure of it (and rightly so, quite frankly).

But anyway, so it's a weird time for me. I'm trying to actually use what I've learned over the past ten years - not only in terms of framing the project but in terms of framing my life that surrounds the project - and you know what? That's not actually fun. Of course, it's not fun being a crazy mess for years, either, so if I can avoid the whole "crazy mess" thing by doing what I'm doing, then that's got to be a good thing. Still, though, it's a pain in the ass.

Ok, now it's time to try to plow through a bunch of library books so that I can return them when I go to pick up the mountain of ILL books I've got waiting for me at the circulation desk.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Research Breakthrough

So, I don't actually keep in touch with my dissertation adviser. I mean, I send him the obligatory annual check-in email with updates, but he totally doesn't respond and makes absolutely no effort to maintain a relationship with me. He's never come to a paper I've given when I've given a paper at a place where he's been, and he basically ignores me unless I'm right in front of his face. He was a very good dissertation adviser - don't get me wrong - and without his guidance I surely would not have become the scholar that I am today or gotten a job, but I think I'm finally willing to admit that he has had absolutely no role in my intellectual or scholarly development since 2003. I mean, sure, he has written letters of reference for me when I've requested them - he has not failed to do what he is required to do for me - but that's about the extent of it.

For a long time, I felt like that was a failing on my part. That somehow I had done something wrong or that I didn't build that relationship the way that I should have done. (I think a lot of that had to do with daddy issues being replicated in the dissertation adviser/me relationship - my feelings that I was responsible for the relationship, that if we weren't close - or even in regular contact - that it was because I sucked or didn't fulfill my obligations.) And I also wondered whether I would just disappear into obscurity because I was so cleanly and clearly cut off once my dissertation was defended and filed. I mean, what happens to people whose dissertation advisers forget they exist the moment that they've finished the dissertation? That's a bad thing, right?

You know what? In my case, it has not been a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it's been a great thing. Because you know why? I somehow have ended up with all of these awesome mentors - including people whom I totally admired and thought were rockstars and who I never thought I'd be, like, friends with - who do things like encourage me and recommend that I look at certain books and who do all the mentory things that my dissertation adviser does not do.

I've begun reading a book that I never would have read - or maybe I would, but I don't know how I would have gotten to it given the other sorts of stuff I've been reading - that Eminent Awesome Wonderful Fun Mentor suggested when I saw her at a recent conference. I'm not entirely sure how she knew, after listening to me talk for only 2 minutes about NB, but this book? It is so freaking important to what I'm trying to say! It is like the missing link! And it's not an obvious link - it's a sort of weird connection to make, if that makes sense - but it's exactly the way for me to get from point A to point B in my overall argument - something I hadn't known how I'd manage.

So I just wanted to blurt that out because my world is rocked to the point that I had to stop and take a breath before continuing onward with the book.

On Research, On Writing

So, yesterday I had to go pick up my shortened curtains for the dining room (which look great, btw) at the place by school, so I also took the opportunity to go to the library and to check out a great many books for NB. (Note to student workers at the circulation desk: yes, I really am checking out all of those books, and I'm sick of your attitude that there is something wrong with that or that my doing so is a burden to you. Do your job and stop with the unsolicited commentary and/or pissy looks. Thank you.)

And then, shockingly enough, I did some reading and note-taking. What was sort of neat about this is that it allowed me to realize that I actually had done a lot of reading this spring before the house madness really took off, and also it allowed me to realize that I'm really into working on my project in earnest. It also got me thinking, though, about my process and why I do this stuff the way I do.

Because here's the thing: I do a LOT of long-hand note-taking. The dissertation/book cured me of actually writing entire manuscripts longhand, but a lot of the writing/transcribing that I do in these early stages is done sans computer. At later stages, I also edit long-hand. Here, for example, is my binder for NB. This is where I'm keeping all of my notes for critical books and some theory.

Yes, this is my low-tech way of beginning a project. You may wonder why this is how I do it. I sort of wonder, too. I know one piece of it is that when I type I can transcribe whole passages without actually reading them, so I miss a crucial step in thinking if I don't write out the notes long-hand. Also, because it takes more effort to write things out long-hand, I tend to edit my notes down to what I really might use rather than to try to transcribe everything that is marginally interesting. In other words, doing my notes this way slows me down and focuses me, and also it gives me an ownership over the texts with which I'm working that typing doesn't give me. Or so I think. It may also just be that I'm afraid to do it a different way. What if it didn't work?

So yesterday I worked for about 3 hours (not counting the time I spent in the library), and it was good. I am feeling a bit out of sorts about my project conceptually because it seems like every source I encounter - even the ones that seem like they would be foundational to what I want to think about - gets a crucial thing (or what I think is a crucial thing) totally wrong. But when you encounter that over and over again, you start wondering whether it's not everybody else that's wrong but rather you who is totally off your rocker. Ah, well, I guess I just need to keep plugging away and see where the reading/writing takes me.

And then I was talking with a friend last night and I realized that I don't even know why I'm doing this project really. Or, I do: it's because I really want to think about this stuff. But seriously: why attempt to write another book? Why is that the way that I need to think about this stuff? Why am I compelled to do such a project when, in the grand scheme of things, it promises to be a lot of work for not much reward? Am I a masochist? Something else? What is it that motivates me to do this sort of thing?

Anyway, I know I haven't really written a cohesive post here. I'm just sort of writing whatever pops into my head. But that's the latest. Now I'm going to go eat something and do some house-stuff and then maybe do a little more reading before Naomi comes over tonight for drinks and catching up and reminiscing, etc.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ok, So I'm Not Working Again...

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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Has Plan for Getting Out of House During Sabbatical!

Ok, so I remembered a thing that is awesome about my house today, and that solves my coffee shop problem (as I'd begun to think of it). My house is just across the street from the bus that takes you into the "downtown" of the city near where I live. That area has many things that are awesome:
  1. Beautiful public library, which actually has a decent amount of academic stuff.
  2. Coffee shops.
  3. Ginormous used bookstore.
  4. Cool places to go for lunch.
  5. Etc.
I hadn't thought of this as a sabbatical option because downtown is a pain to get to if you don't happen to be near to the one bus line that takes you there, which my old place wasn't. Obviously I wouldn't want to deal with the traffic that goes with driving there, nor would I want to pay to park. So this is the perfect option: 2 or 3 days per week I will take the bus downtown and Think Deep Thoughts and make a day of it. 'Tis perfect!

Now with that settled, I think I will go and continue reading Heat, which I bought at the Ginormous Used Bookstore this afternoon, instead of reading stuff for research, though I also did snatch up two awesome academic books for a song, too, but who wants to read those?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Navel-Gazing, Whining, Etc.

You may want to click away to another blog if you can't stomach the self-pity and complaints, because that's what this post is going to be about. And yes, I realize I'm insufferable and I should shut up, etc., so nobody needs to tell me that either. My thought is this: either I write my way out of this funk in this space, or I'm going to end up abandoning this space for the term of my sabbatical, and if I do that I don't know that I'll know how to come back, or that I'll want to come back.

So. What's my problem? Well, I'm all moved into my house, and that means that I probably need to start working on the things that I'm being paid to work on this summer. But I feel...

Ok, how do I explain this? My problem, when it comes to writing, is not that I think I'm a fraud or an impostor or those typical things. I generally have faith in my ideas, and I'm generally a person who has great ideas. (I know, I hate myself as I'm writing this, too. But really, that is a thing about me.) My problem, instead, is that I'll have this idea - this great idea. And I can see how it's supposed to be executed totally clearly in my head. I can see all the pieces of it, and I can see how awesome the thing could end up being. All good, right? But the problem is that there is (as you might imagine) a disconnect between the vision and my abilities to execute the vision.

Now, to be fair, nobody could actually execute the vision. That's the reason why it's important for me to actually get my hands dirty and to start working rather than to be all focused on the vision. But the problem with the fact that I haven't really been consistently thinking about anything other than home ownership since March is that I've spent approx. 3 months in the "vision place" and so now I'm.... Well, I'm whining instead of getting to work. So it's not fraudulence that paralyzes me... it's delusions of grandeur. At least that's what I've come up with after a few days of sulking.

But so this is the problem, I think, that goes along with the above. I think that because I've been reading people talking about their research progress over the summer (or progress with teaching or whatever) I've somehow stopped thinking of my sabbatical project as fun and I've started thinking of it as work and as somehow in competition with other people, as opposed to me just having the awesome opportunity to spend months trying to answer really neat questions. I need to believe that this is not work. And I know that's crazy, but that's how it was with my dissertation, and then the book manuscript.... This was how it was for me with my math homework in 3rd grade. If I think it's "work" then I suddenly can't do it.

Anyway, I'm going to try to do at least a little tomorrow and see where that leads me.

Other things that are bothering me:
  • My favorite coffee shop just went out of business in May.
  • Everybody is fucking getting married or getting engaged or having motherfucking babies and I am a desperate spinster with two cats and a fake relationship with a person whom I don't see.
  • I feel stressed out by the programs in my DVR queue, and I think this is making me watch a lot more TV than I normally would.
  • It is hot - too hot to breathe - every motherfucking day. 90+ degrees and always humid and miserable.
  • [insert any other complaint here - I'm sure I've got more, but I'm tired of ranting.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is Summer Over or Just Beginning?

Lots of people are posting about the work they're trying to get accomplished over the summer, and I'm too lazy to link but head on over to Notorious Ph.D.'s, Historiann's, Bardiac's, Maude's, and I'm sure other places I'm forgetting if you want to read what I'm reading.

But so anyway, my house is now mostly together (I still have a few things to sort out in the Nook - and yes, I'll show you pictures when I'm done) and so on the one hand I'm feeling sort of like it's been forever since I did any intellectual work, like I've spent (wasted?) the whole summer moving, but on the other hand summer only technically began a day ago, and so really summer is only just beginning. I suppose I just feel a bit out of it - I don't have a routine, and I don't really have a plan.

Today, however, I did read an essay for a journal which was in many ways terrible but which maybe with a HUGE amount of revision could not be terrible, so that was positive and a step toward finding my research mojo again. Tomorrow, I'm finally going to do the revisions that I've been sitting on for nearly a year, revisions for an article that is accepted for publication pending those revisions. Maybe I'll go to the library, too. I like the library. And then? Well, and then I'll need to begin writing the NB. My plan is to get myself into a routine of trying to put something on paper for 3 hours a day. If I do that for a couple of weeks, I should then be in a position to see where I am and to start getting more solid in terms of a plan for moving forward. I actually am pretty excited about all of the above, but I also feel sort of like, "Ew! I just want to lounge around! It's still summer! Wah!"

So anyway, that's the state of things in the House of Crazy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

After, Part III

I know you're wondering what the bedrooms are looking like. Or if you're not, please go read a blog that has real content :)
First, the spare room:

The only change in here is actually that I switched out the red curtains (which I felt were a) like a brothel and b) too limiting) for the cream ones that had been in the living room. It's a nice change.

My bedroom (which used to be the peach/orange room that threatened to blind any and all who slept there):

Isn't it most soothing and awesome? I feel that it is. My apologies for the crappy lighting in the pictures - I'm still using the camera phone as opposed to the real camera.

Enough for now. I've been thinking about writing a real post, but I don't know if I really have the energy for that right now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Should Accomplish More But....

Ok, so I'm slowly but surely making headway in doing those last piddly tasks that will make me completely and totally unpacked. Today I went to the bank, took care of getting my mortgage payment automatically deducted from my bank account, canceled the hotel reservation for the conference that I won't be attending, had a phone date with my aunt, organized and put away everything that's to be stored in the drop-lid desk in the living room, put away the ceramic Christmas tree in the front hall closet where it belongs as opposed to storing the box in the middle of the living room floor, took some stuff that belonged in the basement down there, added more things to my to-do list....

In other words, things move forward apace. But I still have lots more to do, and I'm feeling less than motivated. My goal is to get totally done with the downstairs today, but I have totally stalled. Unpacking is boring. At the same time, I really want to be unpacked so that I can start actually doing the research that I'm supposed to be doing this summer, which I don't feel like I can do until I get the unpacking done.

I'll post some more pics once I get some more of this crap out of here. Maybe I'll have a snack and that will motivate me further? Or maybe I'll just call it a day even though I totally shouldn't?

Gah. I don't know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

After, Part II

So one thing that I accomplished while my mom was here was to buy a chair and ottoman for the living room. A certain spoiled kitty-cat, as of 5 minutes after delivery, made it quite clear who would relax most often on this brand new furniture.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Loyalty, Commitment, or Whatever

Historiann asked in this post, "Do we really owe our institutions loyalty?" I'm about to write here isn't a direct response to Historiann, but I do think that it's a relevant tangent.

See, I got an email from the president of my institution within recent days asking me to give money to my institution. My institution that hasn't given a cost of living raise for the past two years. Ummm.*

This is what I think about loyalty. I think loyalty is a two-way street. I think that loyalty means a two-way commitment. I do not think that "loyalty" means me investing in an institution that treats its employees like they aren't worth shit.

I tend to be quite a loyal person. Loyal in the way of a trusty dog. (Shout out to Roxie's World!) But you know what? A dog that you don't feed properly and that you don't exercise and that you don't let in the house isn't exactly going to win the Westminster Dog Show. Nor is that dog necessarily going to do tricks when guests come over. And that dog certainly isn't going to give you money out of her paycheck when you don't give her a basic cost of living adjustment.

Fact: My institution struggles to meet the baseline for salary with CUPA. There are serious problems with salary compression, and (I'd argue) serious problems with equity for anybody who's not white and male.

Fact: At my institution, faculty have to pay to park, and they pay approx. 3x what students pay. We are not in an urban area, and there is no street parking option and there is virtually no public transportation option. In other words, my salary is approx. $300/year less because I can't actually come to work without paying for parking.

Fact: Faculty morale at my institution is at an all-time low, maybe because we don't get raises, because of the parking thing, and because of the hefty chunk that health care costs take from one's salary.

Now, there will be some commenters who will say, "what about a union? you silly people!" And you know what? My state doesn't negotiate with unions. The whole "union" thing? A non-starter here.

So here's what I think about "loyalty." I think that "loyalty" is a very nice concept that assumes that employees are fairly and well compensated. I think that "loyalty" - from faculty to institution - depends on faculty feeling like they are valued, and it depends on resources for faculty to do the jobs that they are hired to do.

And I think that administrators who "encourage" faculty to donate money from their paychecks to the institution that fails to compensate them adequately and that fails to support the performance that it requires of them are tone-deaf in the extreme. You want my loyalty? You want my motherfucking money? Well. Then you might need to give me some things that I need in return. It's not up to me to subsidize my employer. In fact, it's my employer's job to pay me for the very real and specialized and expert work that I do. So, no, I won't be giving money to my university. The fact of the matter is, I don't have it to give since there are no raises.

* And yes, I'm lucky because we haven't had furloughs or actual pay cuts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


As teachers, we don't always know whether we're reaching our students, or we don't get the chance to see how what we teach them remains part of who they become. But I've been tickled pink all day today because former students have been posting status updates and sending me emails, all about a book that I teach only every four years and a book that really does hurt their feelings for eight full weeks. And you know what? That's pretty rad.

Happy Bloomsday, one and all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After, Part 1

The "after" will be a multi-part series that will extend between now and at least Friday. See, I can only show you some of the after right now because other parts are in various stages of completion. So, for example, Friday I'll get the chair and ottoman for the living room that will make the furnishings for that room complete-ish, so I'm not done showing you the living room yet. And I need to organize my closet so that I can figure out where the dresser goes, etc., so my bedroom is not yet ready for public viewing. And the Nook... well, it's very, very close, but not quite, because of a minor setback involving needing to get rid of my old desk and then needing to assemble a really crappy desk to replace it (but, even though it's crappy, it was only 40 bucks, and I needed for it not to be expensive, so there we are).

Anyhoodle, I know the suspense is killing you, so here are some pictures to tide you over.

This is the living room as it now looks. As you see, I bought new curtains to warm the room up a bit, and I also put shades up on the front windows, mainly because with no shades my across-the-street neighbors, who really like to sit out in front of their house (they have no porch - they just have chairs plopped out in front, and they sit there most nights, and often past dark), can see right into my living room if I don't close the curtains. Now, closing the curtains is all well and good, but if it's not a gajillion degrees, and if you want to have windows open, guess what? That means that closing the curtains is stupid. And if you don't close the curtains, then the whole neighborhood can see straight through your house. Uncool. And thus, shades. As for the curtains, you can't really see how great they are with this stupid camera phone picture - they are a golden sort of color, and they have a leaf texture that is really pretty when the sunlight shines through.

Ok, so now, the next picture is of the Dining Room, which seriously took like 3 days to complete. That wallpaper. The filthy walls. The ceiling which we totally think had never been repainted for at least 20 years. HIDEOUS. So here's the room now:

You will notice that the walls are pretty bare and I don't have a ton of furniture in the room. I do intend to decorate as time moves forward, but I'm going to take my time. I'll post a few more pics of this room once I get the third bookshelf downstairs to stick along the wall that you can't see, and once I get the curtains for the window seat put up (I need to take them to get cut down and hemmed, but the rod is up so once that's done, up they go). Oh, and the curtains. The former owner didn't have real curtains in this room. On the one hand, cool, lots of light, and the windows are pretty. On the other hand, total glare from the windows at nighttime, and if you actually eat in the dining room you feel like the next door neighbors can watch you eat. (Our houses are separated by only a driveway. I do not live in the country or something.) And so, I'm putting up real curtains so that I at least have the option to close them. I mean, seriously. Anyway, though, I'm really, really happy with the green that I chose, both because it looks nice with the color of the living room walls and with the kitchen (which is a sort of buttery yellow), and because I really think that it makes the woodwork look gorgeous.

So anyway, I do believe that's enough for now. I have things to accomplish, like spraying feliway in my stupid nook because the Man-Kitty just said no to a) home improvements and b) my mother's insane whirling-dervish-style approach to said improvements (which I'll tell you all about once I get over the trauma of experiencing them for a week), and he expressed his dominance and EXTREME displeasure by marking his territory with urine. (And by humping Mr. Stripey, because when the going gets tough, the Man-Kitty apparently needs to show who's boss. And yes, apparently it's normal for neutered cats to do these things.) I hate the chaos of moving, but not as much as the Man-Kitty does. I know all of the above was too much information, but let's just say that it added to what was already a slightly stressful week with my mother.

(In case you were wondering, Mr. Stripey remains unflappable and happy as can be.)

Before Pictures

This is what my house looked like when I decided to buy it (pictures from when the old owner had it). Once my mom leaves today, I shall take some pics of what things look like after our handiwork of the week.






Monday, June 07, 2010


So. I was one of the lucky people for whom blogger didn't work for much of the day today, and lemme tell ya - I was not pleased! I was going to write a post about something or other, but I forget what now because I had to unpack instead of blogging!

I'm in pretty good shape on the unpacking, if I do say so myself. I've got 1 box to deal with in the living room, and about 4 boxes to deal with in the dining room. Other than that, I need to unpack and organize clothes, but I'm not terribly worried about doing that before my mom arrives Wednesday for a week.

I know you've all been dying for pics... I'll post some house pictures once my mom and I finish our Week of Nesting. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy some pics of the kitties. Problematically, however, the camera remains packed somewhere, so all I've got are crappy camera phone pictures. You all will have to make do with those.

So, first, you may wonder how they felt about packing up the only home they'd ever known. Here are some pre-move pictures.
As you might notice, the Man-Kitty appeared to be on board with the move in the beginning. Indeed, he was all ready to be packed up with some books. In contrast, Mr. Stripey remained somewhat suspicious, and spent his time perched and watching the proceedings like a hawk.

On the other end of the move, however, the Man-Kitty was much less enthusiastic. He's just not good with change. It exhausts him.

In contrast, Mr. Stripey found himself energized and ecstatic on the other side. Here is a picture of him torturing a half-dead dragon-fly:
So, yay that blogger works for me again. Boo that I am now to preoccupied with other things to do a real post. Yay that I have gotten around to posting some kitty pics, but boo that I have yet to locate my real camera. I suppose that's all for now :)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Conference Burn-Out

So, around this exact time of year 14 years ago, I attended my first academic conference. I had just graduated with my B.A., and my undergraduate thesis adviser had encouraged me to submit an abstract, and I was nervous and excited and feeling totally like a fraud. Oddly enough, I presented on a novel that I subsequently abandoned for 14 years, and now I'm presenting on that same novel at this upcoming conference of mine.

But so anyway. That first conference experience was exhilarating. I was interested in every paper and wanted to go to every panel and I was bursting with new ideas and I felt so... I guess I just felt like, "Oh, these are my people. All of these people here are passionate about the same things about which I'm passionate. Here is where you get to talk about these things about which you care so much and the people to whom you talk won't glaze over and change the subject. This is the place I've been looking for."

I am no longer that exhilarated, excited girl. That's what I've been realizing over the past month or so at least, but really, it's been coming on for much longer than that. Do you know the last time I went to a conference and attended all or nearly all of the panels? I seriously think that it was 2004 or 2005. Do you know the last time I felt like my mind was blown by a conference (not just one talk or one panel, but the whole conference)? Me neither. (Actually, that's when I stopped going to panels at conferences, I think: when my mind stopped being blown by going to them.)

So what has changed? Because I would like to get some of that exhilaration and excitement back.

  1. One thing is that I haven't had time for the past 7 years to really sit with any idea for a long period of time before presenting it at a conference. And while I do think that it's valuable to present new work at conferences, I also think that my brain hasn't recharged since before I got on the tenure-track, and that's a bad thing.
  2. At a certain point, you feel like you've heard every paper before. I found myself perusing programs for a couple of conferences that I'm not attending this summer, and I found myself... well, I didn't care that I wasn't attending because nothing sounded new. And this conference at which I'm giving my paper - I sort of felt the same way as I looked over that program. This is not because people aren't doing interesting things, I don't think. I think it's me.
  3. But also, too, familiarity breeds contempt. With professionalization and embeddedness in one's field, one starts seeing the same faces over and over again. And once you get to know these people - and really, at a certain point you can't help but know these people - you also get a sense of what they are likely to present at a conference. And so at a certain point, you read over a conference program and instead of it being like this tome of sparkly shiny new things it's more like an alumni bulletin that talks about what people are doing lately. You think to yourself, "Oh, so X is still working on the trauma book," or "Y must have finished with the transnational project and is moving on to this new thing that she was talking about as a tangent three conferences ago." Now, this is great, that you know the people and that you can follow their careers in that way. But it sort of takes the luster off of actually going to listen to a conference paper.
  4. Conferences become work, and as work they are as much about meeting with people as they are about attending as an audience member. One of the reasons that I no longer get to go to panels is because I always have to find blocks of time to meet with people. All of this is important to do, and often it's even just plain fun. For one thing, these people are my friends. Of course I want to see them. But also, these are important professional connections. These are the people who recommend one for things and who endorse one's work. These are people who introduce you to other people. At this point in one's career, one probably should be doing all of this meeting and greeting and rubbing of elbows. But I don't get the same charge out of doing that stuff.
  5. Speaking of meeting with people and knowing people, I think that I have met all of the fancy people I have ever really wanted to meet in my narrow specialization, and a lot of people who I never cared about meeting but who are fancy, too. Maybe I need to start working on some new stuff so I can find some new celebrities and heroes?
So, here's the thing. I think sabbatical is going to be good for this problem. I think that the deep thinking and time that sabbatical is going to give me is going to energize me in ways that make me excited not only about my ideas but also about listening to what other people are working on. I also think that going to some new conferences - ones that are far afield from what I typically attend - will help, and BFF and I are hatching a plan to maybe go to a Brand Spanking New conference next year, which I think will be a good thing.

But you know, maybe I'll never get that former excitement back. The reality is that I'm part of this world now, and I'm a fixture. I know people. I have responsibilities and obligations. A conference isn't like vacation - which it was when I attended my first one. It's work. And maybe some time off will make it less like work - or at least less like drudgery - but I don't really think I can recapture how I used to feel about conferences. That makes me kind of sad.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

90% Done, And I Don't Think It's Half Bad, Actually....

So. Here's the thing about writing. It's a thing that I always tell my students when I need to talk them off the ledge, but I conveniently forget it when I myself am on the edge. The only way for a paper to get written is for you to write it. Oh, and also, the only way for you to refine your ideas and to clarify your argument and what you think is to write it all down. Because the kind of thinking that you can do in writing is far more substantial than the kind of thinking that you can do that is confined to your own brain. When you write, you learn what you think - even if you didn't know that you thought it. I know this, but I apparently need to relearn it periodically.

I'd write more, but I'm tapped out.

Procrastination, Self-Loathing, Crunch Time

I know. You're all waiting desperately for house pictures. I promise that some will come soon, but now is not the time. Now is not the time because I have to present a conference paper in a couple of days, and do you know how many words of said conference paper are written? Take a wild guess. Dingdingding! Exactamundo! The answer is ZERO!

It's not really fair for me to label what's happened here procrastination, though. I've been working on the research for the paper since probably February or March, and I've been thinking about the argument and stuff steadily over the past couple of weeks. The problem is, nothing is written. It's when I end up in predicaments like this that I feel all impostor-y and fraudulent, which then makes me think I suck, which then makes me incapable of doing the writing, which is a real problem.

So. Enough of all that. I must find my confidence to get this freaking thing done. And once it's done, I can unpack some more things. And once I give the paper, I can unpack the rest of my house, which will then mean that I can get into a routine and really embark on the summer's research plans. Which of course is all I want to do in the first place, and this conference paper actually contributes to those research plans so I should embrace it rather than being stuck.


(Note: I believe none of the pep-talk-y stuff at the end, but a girl has to try.)