That's a lousy sobriquet, isn't it? Kinda generic and uncreative. She's needed a new one for a while, one that reflects a bit of who she is. And her visit this past week and a few subsequent e-mails provided inspiration. To wit:
I'm now over two-thirds of the way through my research trip, and I feel like I've gotten nothing done. This is largely a product of the fact that I've been mostly working with inventories, pulling and taking copies of documents to read later. The fact that I've spend very little time in the doucments, and the time I have spent in them has yielded less promising signs than the work with the inventories (for different collections) makes me feel like this trip has been unproductive.
But more than that, I feel like I was not ready for this sabbatical. I've been discussing this subject over the last few days with fabulous ex-neighbor, who is also on a sabbatical. She and I both agreed that we might have been more prepared to take advantage of these sabbaticals if they'd come a year later. As it was, we spent our year 6 on the tenure track finishing up the first project – doing revisions, doing page proofs, etcetera. Then there was the summer trip that was supposed to be reconnaissance, but fall semester was such chaos that we never really got time to process what we'd found. We were happy to have the sabbatical, but we each felt that we could have used another year before the sabbatical to do background reading and really figure out the basic lay of the land. As it was, even with the reconnaissance trip that was supposed to orient us, we still both felt that we were fumbling our way through a dark room, bumping into the furniture and barking our shins.
Of course, like many friends, we're better at calming each other down than we are ourselves. So here is a snippet from one of our exchanges, reprinted with permission.
I keep bouncing back and forth between one project[**] and another,[***] like a pinball. I'm trying not to worry about it, and not to listen to the voice in my head screaming THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TIME!!! HOW *DARE* YOU HAVE TAKEN TIME AWAY FROM THE ARCHIVES TO HAVE FUN!!! YOU BAD, BAD PERSON! That way lies madness.
But I keep coming back to, "Well, if I'd had my book *done* when I went up for tenure, then I could have spent year 6 working on the next project..." which is ridiculous, of course. But still.
Now, Fabulous Ex-Neighbor:
I've had all the same thoughts. And indeed, if we followed the time- honored schedule of having a book OUT in time for tenure, we'd have had that built in break. Mind you, in places that require that, we'd also probably have had a semester off in the third year or so, lower teaching load, etc etc.
I too worry about taking time away. On the other hand, last summer I found that I was really refreshed after having visitors and taking some time off. AND the time gives us ideas, familiarity with our subjects [...]
Did you know exactly how everything fit for the diss when you gathered the documents? I'm guessing this will come together. It is just irritating not to be able to see the whole picture right now. So get what you can, process it at home and then there is always January and summer to go fill the holes you identify. Or so I tell myself.
Now, to be fair, she admitted in a later e-mail that she was directing these soothing noises at herself as much as at me. But the fact that she can make them, while I can only whimper incoherently, suggests a name change: henceforth (or until something better occurs to me), Fabulous Ex-Neighbor will be known as the Voice of Reason.