So there I was, panicking about a new project. And then as I was reading a novel this morning (one that I got, btw, free from a publisher who wants me to review it on my blog---not this blog, of course), I came across a truly bizarre sentence that got me thinking about two topics that I've always been interested in (one from the diss and one from the reading that I did to escape the diss), but have never been able to bring to fruition. And then I got in the shower, lamenting the fact that I two years ago I taught a book that was about topic B, but couldn't really make it work. And then I thought that I'd just been talking with The diss director, Z., about something related to topic B, but didn't think there was much new to say about it.
Suddenly, between lather and rinse, it came to me: if I thought about topic C, it would bridge A and B! The sky opened up and the beam of light shown down upon me. Holy crap, could it be? Could I actually have a new project? And while I slathered on the conditioner, I outlined the three constituent chapters, and started brainstorming all of the secondary sources already in my possession.
Hot diggety! I'm still in that first blush of love with an idea, where I realize that somewhere in the near future, there will be the awful drudgery of figuring out complex relationships among disparate primary sources and constructing a theoretical framework, but none of it really registers because I'm so excited to get started. Yay reading! Yay researching!!
I know that I shouldn't have this reaction, but I do, so deal. I can't help feeling a bit of relief---look, Gepetto, I'm a real academic! I'm not out of ideas at the grand old age of 33! Thank goodness! That's the academic disease, isn't it---fear that we're going to discover that we're stupid or past our prime?
The other moral of this story, however, is that projects don't come from the ether. Despite the description above, it is definitely the case that this project builds off a small nugget of work for the diss (a really small nugget---like 5 pages---but one that also played a key role in my job talk). It's also building off of some ideas that I've been cooking on for a few years, but didn't see as connected. And finally, it will involve the kind of research that I love to do best [hint: it's the kind that involves renewing subscriptions, as opposed to visiting archives...].
So, if you need me, I'll be rolling around in the warm squishiness of my new idea. After that, I'll be rolling around in the warm squishiness of grading, but that's a warm squishiness of a totally different kind.