Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Conversation with my Brain

So, I think I mentioned that town #1 was a bust for me, archive-wise? My thought then was: "A week! I should have gone to T. instead. Aarrrrgh!!!"

Now I'm in town #2, and though I found loads of stuff last week in archive A, that petered out by the weekend. Yesterday (Monday) archives B & C yielded nothing for this project.

There is a perverse part of me that always thinks the same thing when these things happen: "If I'd known, I wouldn't have booked so many days! I could have spent time in other, more productive places! Or I could have made a shorter trip and saved money!"

This is the way my brain works. It's also something I'm trying to change.

See, last night, my brain was starting to do that "You're wasting time and money, woman!" thing it does. And I had to pull my brain off to one side and tell it the following:

"Chill out, brain. You're looking at this all wrong. Sure, time and money are being spent, and we're not finding documents every day. But I emphasize that they are being spent, not "wasted." Think of all the things that these extra few days have allowed you to do. You are enjoying city #2 immensely, thanks to the generosity of a friend and that city's own considerable charms. You are practicing Blerg intensively. You are taking some good pictures, getting your eye back after a too-long hiatus. You are getting some "down time" – may I remind you of that hour and a half you spent sitting on the cathedral steps reading the novel in Blerg you picked up? And today, when you go to the archive, you will have the opportunity to track down that one citation that's been eluding you, to follow that trail of footnotes and see what document it leads to. Just remember that life ain't all about work, brain. Wasn't that something we were supposed to be working on?"


TriPartite Academic said...

Wise words, Notorious! The constraints of time and money often make it difficult to enjoy these amazing places where we get to do research, so I'm glad you're getting some opportunities to soak it all up.

Anonymous said...

Damn straight. If you go to Exotic Research Locations and spend your time wholly in archives, then well, you've missed walking round the old city walls for a start! (Should where you are have them, I mean; you know.) One of the points of working on a foreign country is surely that research and holidays can be done at the same time!

squadratomagico said...

I always calculate unfruitful time as a necessary evil. After all, if the archive had been filled with great stuff and you had scheduled your departure before you had time to fully investigate, you'd be kicking yourself. Down time is not outside the process, it's part of the process.

Like, when I write something new I always end up throw ing out the first 1-2 days' work. I used to consider that wasted time, but now I know it's a necessary part of the process.

And anyway, just last week you were saying you wanted to stay there forever (I assume this is the same place.) Let your rose keep its bloom a while longer, and relish your time there!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I wasn't going to comment till I saw that my capcha was "esseship": too perfect for this post to pass up, right down to the Latin/OE combination. You're engaging in esseship as well as in scholarship, being as well as doing, and what could be better?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks, everyone. And: Well-portmanteaued, Dame Eleanor! I salute you.

Historiann said...

Squadrato wrote, "Down time is not outside the process, it's part of the process."

This is very wise. I always despair for the first day or two that I won't find anything, that I'll never figure out the handwriting the relevant documents are in, etc. I like Squadrato's notion of planning to discard the first day or two's worth of work.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

This time I actually planned in a whole week before I hit the archives for the first time. It was nice. And I've got four "free" days tacked onto the end, too, just to hang with friends.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Plus, if you didn't take the time to look, you might have missed something. Even if you come up with nothing, at least you know now that nothing is there instead of second guessing all the time. It's worthwhile having peace of mind, eh?

Anthea said...

Wise words for sure. Don't beat yourself up either. Life is too short and you have to travel, speak Blerg, eat different things, take long walks down interesting windy roads in cities. Plus..you never know what you might find that sparks another interesting project!