Monday, August 4, 2014

The Depths of My Ignorance

Where has Notorious been? Well, I've been writing. Just everything except blog posts.[1] In my very first post to this blog, back in 2007, I wrote: "If the blog begins to keep me from doing the actual work that it was created to motivate, the blog goes." Well, it's not that drastic, but spending hours a day, almost every day, either reading or writing on the summer projects has left me... well, I think I used up all my words for a while there.

But now we're here, just a few days short of the end of my Great Writing Summer with Many Projects, and by the end of the week I should be able to report back, but the short version is that a summer of ignoring virtually everything except those projects has kinda paid off, in that I've got some stuff to shove out the door very soon. I've also learned some stuff along the way, which I'll be blogging about soon as the summer winds down.  But here's the first one: When it comes to my new project, I'm pretty darned ignorant.

Now, before anyone cautions me not to be down on myself, let me note that I deliberately chose "ignorant" rather than "stupid." It's taken me eight years of grad school plus ten-plus years as a grown-up professor to realize that I'm probably not stupid, even for a person with a Ph.D. Sometimes I'm even pretty smart, with good ideas. But ignorance? Yeah, that's something else entirely.

Back when I was trying to figure out what my second-book project would be, I basically had two choices: build on what I already knew and continue researching/writing along those lines (hedgehog) or striking off for unknown country (fox). I opted for the latter approach, mainly because I didn't have anything really inspiring me in the former direction at that time. I knew it would be hard work essentially re-training myself. But diving into the first chapter of the new book project -- really diving in -- has been an exercise in realizing how many things I simply do not know about the place and time I've been studying and writing about lo these many years.

This has led to a few moments of despair and lots of "what the hell was I thinking?!?"  But on my better days, I think of this as an adventure. I hope that it becomes a book, and one that people will want to read. But by the time that I finish, at the very least I will have satisfied my own curiosity. And perhaps that's what it's all about, after all.
[1] Well, that, and answers to e-mails, grant applications, the syllabus for a brand-new course I'll be teaching in the fall... okay, a lot of things, now that I really think about it.