Saturday, April 26, 2008

Project Panic

This morning I got one of those charming, emails from, in which they show me books that I never knew existed but that I of course want to buy. I want to buy them and all of their little friends that everyone else who bought the book bought. I am a capitalist pig of the first order, and I buy to live.

It didn't help me to notice, however, that said book treads dangerously close to matter that I worked on in the diss, as does one of the other recommended books. In fact, both are put out by the same publisher that reviewed my manuscript. [At some point, I need to write up that delightful little experience, wherein the reviewers couldn't agree, and the editor asked what kind of revisions I'd be willing to do. I was so befuddled and frazzled by my job that I didn't respond for 7 months. The moral of this story? Don't send shit out until you're ready...]

Last spring, I started to panic about publications, as the loud ticking of the tenure clock finally registered in my ears. It's not that we need a tremendous amount of publications here, but there's enough agita involved with the entire process that I wanted to have my bases covered. Unconsciously, I think my strategy was this: it doesn't matter what you publish, as long as you do it.

At that point, I had failed to follow up on the manuscript review for the diss, and I had also turned down the offer for a monograph on a particular writer on whom I had once been very keen, but had not worked on in years. In retrospect, I don't know if all of this sounds like career suicide, but it seemed right at the time. Devoting myself to writing a book that I wasn't really invested in, when I already have to nail my feet to the floor to get writing done, seemed like an exercise in despair.

So, I've been concentrating over the past year to get stuff done and out, in whatever way I can. This has meant working on some insane projects---a collaborative piece with a group of people from a previous institition on a book that makes me batty; a collaborative piece with my colleague in a field that's not really mine, although it touches it; and upcoming---a piece that moves in a direction I'd like to shift my research, but one that's new to me, and with a press that I'm not particularly sure about.

Somehow, all of this has worked in my favor. Wonder of wonders, it looks like a respectable press is going to put out that first piece (I think there was bribery or blackmail involved. Seriously, it's the weirdest shit ever.); Gawd willing and the creek don't rise, the second piece has been accepted by a decent journal, pending peer review; and the third, assuming I can finish it, has been accepted and should wend its way through the publishing machine next year.

While I'm now sufficiently set for the local requirements, it does leave me with a bizarre CV. There's no central theme, no particular evidence of a consistent line of research or thought, except that "gee, she knows a bunch of people." It's no wonder that the diss has lost its place in line, and its not something I'm willing to go back to at this point, as it feels so removed from me and my current thinking. But what exactly IS my current thinking?

I think it's time for me to find a new project---one that's indicative of the kind of work that I've been doing, and that I'd like to build the next stage of my career on. I'd like it to take into account the kinds of interpretative work that I most enjoy and do best, I'd like it to have stakes that I think are relevant, and I'd like it to reference and resonate with the stuff that I've been reading and I think matters in the field.

Having said all that...I have no idea what that project is. I've spent so much time making sure that I have publications on the docket in time for tenure application that I haven't cared so much about what I actually want to do. In ways that I had never intended, I've pushed my deep-seated intellectual singularity to the background in order to foreground the immediate, the marketable, the do-able in a short amount of time. If this year's theme is completion, then it might be time to complete that cycle and move on to remembering how to find what it is that most excites me, even if it's slow in coming.

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Blogger the Truth Hz said...


Monday, April 28, 2008 10:24:00 AM  

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