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Hanging in there…sort of

Well again another big gap in time since I last wrote.  I’m afraid I am still facing serious apathy towards my research and am not sure how to shake it.  I was bursting with enthusiasm for months and months, but had so many roadblocks put in my way that I stalled out.  Gotta love the academic process – it excels at squelching inspiration.  Now that I’ve finally been given the green light, I can’t seem to get going again.  I think this has a lot to do with being totally on my own these days.  I do have a very good supervisor, but she lives 2 hours away so I only see her on occasion.  I have no committee – the two people so far whom I have asked to be on it have declined because of too great a workload.  I have no funding.  I have no support from my department, which not only took away the desk space I was allotted once my teaching contract was over, but they even asked for my mail key back.  As I don’t even have a mailbox there anymore, let alone a desk or office, I have no reason to go into my department at all.  Ever.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’m getting for the $500 a month they charge me to be one of their students.

So I work from home, each day running into the next with nothing to distinguish it (days of the week have lost meaning), and am having a really hard time remembering why I am doing this.  Every week I promise myself that I will start into a 9-5 routine, take evenings off and do other things.  Every week I manage to do that maybe for one day, then it falls apart.  It’s amazing how easy it is to let your day slide when you live in a vacuum.  Life really loses it’s meaning in a hurry when you exist in isolation.  Now there’s an argument for believing that we are collective beings over individuals if I’ve ever encountered one!  

Maybe this week will be the week I get back on track.  I certainly hope it will be anyway…


6 Responses

  1. Hi, I’m glad I checked in. All I can say is, I am positive that you are not the only one who’s feeling low. Academic work is, as you know, completely thankless, in the sense that you feel as if you are spending so much effort to get projects off the ground – it is hard and lonely – and who reads it ever anyway? It was really sweet. I had a Japanese academic over the house some time ago and she was combined extreme politeness with extreme frankness. Walking back to the tube, she said to me, “Don’t you ever wonder why we bother?” We just started to laugh. What made it funny is that, of course, you wonder every day.

    But, counterbalancing that are those moments when things work, click and come together, and those moments are really great and inspiring. So hang on to those when they come.

    Practically, I know that the British Library was the best thing that ever happened to me. I go there every day. The point is – working at home rarely works. You need to have a routine, get out, go somewhere where there are people around you. I know this sounds corny, but check out all the university libraries, see what’s the nicest one (I always like architecture and/or religious studies libraries…) and go there at least 2, 3 times a week. The book you recommended to me, How to Write A lot, which I thought was brilliant, makes some good practical suggestions.

    And, above all, try to keep your spirits up. It is tough, lord knows, but you’ve made great progress.

  2. p.s. Another thought: once and a while, I check into some other academic blogs:
    http://slavesofacademe.blogspot.com/ is my favourite. It’s moody, edgy, well-written. There’s a few others I drop in on. It’s a nice window into American academe and gives some perspective on things. I am giving you this address with some trepidation, though, as you may spend all tomorrow (i.e. while you are meant to be working on you dissertation) reading it!

  3. Thanks, Barbara, for yet another great pep talk! You are very right that I need to get into a routine and work elsewhere. I have been working from home because I’m sick of the library and my department took away my desk there, but I need to find somewhere else to go. Perhaps I’ll start going to café’s. I love working in coffee shops and I do get a lot of work done, provided I don’t end up sitting next to someone who is talking loudly. Maybe I’ll even do that tomorrow! I actually have been working a bit better this last couple of days so feel some momentum gathering.

    As for academic work being thankless, you can say that again! Thank goodness for this blog because, other than the occasional talk or conference I attend, it’s my only source of interaction with the outside world with respect to my subject matter.

    Thanks again for cheering me up! 🙂

  4. I like the coffee shop idea. The other day I was reading in one and I had to laugh: the sound of someone coughing in the library drives me nuts, but in a cafe, I work on, oblivious to all the background sounds, music, loud conversation on mobiles…

    I agree, too, that the blog is a great way to keep a “real world” connection, if we can call it that.

    I guess the only other words of wisdom (such as it is) would be:

    a) having a good supervisor is a lot more important than an organized department so really do try to see her regularly (I had the other scenario – a pretty decent department and an alcoholic, psychoanalyst superivosor – total nightmare. He gave me my first and hopefully last panic attack);

    b) what we do is a privilege – sometimes it’s so hard that we forget that – but we are like all those wannabe actors in L.A. – hopeful and overabundant. Unlike the actors, though, we are driven by a love of what we do and fulfilling that dream, scratching that itch!, is the reward.

    So, keep going!

  5. Sorry, should clarify: we love our subject, and are committed to finding out about that subject (hence, scratching the itch) is the reward.

    I am losing it slightly over here!

  6. I am in California and have just heard about this rather amazing house:

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