Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Procrastivity, and Why I Need It

Over the past several days, I have been engaging in procrastivity: Doing somewhat important stuff in order to avoid doing the really important stuff. In particular: I've been combing through the many, many files that have not so much been filed as... grown like a tumor. A proliferation of files choking out other files, to the point where I have no idea what I have.

Today I went on the hunt for one particular bit of information -- something about a grain storage warehouse. And I found a file that described just what I needed. And I even remembered that I discovered this last summer during my research. Yes, I wrote it down.

No, I apparently did not write down the source.

Sometimes I wonder how I ever manage to write anything. What a mess.

But it's a little less messy every day

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Final Push Begins

Ladies and gentlemen -- all six of you who are still reading -- the final push has begun. Over half a dozen years ago, I began Another Damn Book. Currently, I have three draft chapters, one draft intro, one hot mess of a chapter-shaped object, and one chapter that is largely notional. By the end of the calendar year, I aim to have a respectable draft of the whole thing. And, with the semester, grading, and commencement behind me, and a summer and a sabbatical semester ahead of me, that process began TODAY.

This fall, I'm going to Blerg City to patch holes. Which means that I need all the chapters complete, if not polished, by September 1. This gives me precisely 3 months to patch up Hot Mess Chapter, and to write Sometimes an Adequate Notion Chapter.** I am not sure if I'll work on them sequentially, or intersperse them. But today I sat down with what I have for Hot Mess Chapter, figured out how to organize it, and my rough word counts (which are short, but may expand). I even figured out how to start it: It begins with a map.

Here we go...

**oh, and i need to revise a co-authored article and write a book review somewhere in there, too.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Slink off, or face the music?

Call this a lesson of midcareer. It could apply to any stage of my career, but it seems to have gotten worse, not better, as I advance and feel both flattered and obligated to say yes to the increasing number of invitations to do stuff.

Every semester, I try to start with a fairly clean e-mail inbox. For me, this means fewer than 100 messages in the active queue. But somehow, by a month in, I'm in over my head. And somewhere around week 6, I start setting the important stuff aside with the following thought:

"This is important. It demands my attention. But I'm being pulled in three directions at once, so I can't give it the attention it warrants. So I'll set it aside and answer it tonight. Or tomorrow. Or once I'm through this stack of exams."

And of course, by the time we get to tonight, or tomorrow, or when the stack of exams is finished, there have been 200-300 more e-mails, and 3 more urgent tasks, and the thing that demanded more attention than I could give it has gotten no attention at all. And I've completely forgotten about it.

That's right: the more important something is, the less likely it is ever to get answered.

And then, the end of semester comes, and I start to dig my way out. And I discover these things, and I realize that the person on the other end has no idea what has been going on this semester; they only know that I appear to have rudely blown them off. And then I have to decide whether to slink off or face up to them and ask whether they still are interested, even though it's 6-10 weeks later.

I've done this three times in the past week. Here are the results:

1. The person in question contacted me after I'd decided that the best thing to do was assume they'd given up on me, and hope that they forget all about me so the word doesn't get around. They asked if I was still interested for submitting an abstract. And my answer was an enthusiastic YES! and an abstract that I submitted within 48 hours lest I lose track of it again. All is, apparently, well.

2. Emboldened by the forgiveness of one set of people, I reached out to another who had patiently e-mailed me twice with no response. I did this as I was getting to the bottom of my inbox: Profuse apologies; It sounds like an interesting project, but I couldn't do it on the specified deadline. Would they be interested in later? Response came right back: No thanks, and not happy with me.  gulp.

3. And then I found one even more buried, where I had actually begun a correspondence, then the whole thing had lapsed... on March 1.  Jesus. I'm a hot mess. I just tried the approach I tried with #2: profuse apologies, yes I'm interested, yes I could make the deadline, here's what I'd do.

We'll see how this goes.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Open Letter to the Entire French Electorate

Dear France,

Today, I read this in the New York Times report about your upcoming election: "The far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has suggested that there is an equivalence between the two candidates. Some two-thirds of his voters will cast blank votes or abstain on Sunday, according to an internal party survey.”

Mes amis, been there, done that: lots and lots of American progressives, disappointed in their choices, stayed home last November to send a message to the Democrats. As a result, we (and the rest of the world) got the world's most dangerous idiot as president.

I get that you're unhappy with your choices. What I'm saying is that you don't need to try it to see what happens. We got that covered.

Be smarter than us.