Monday, August 21, 2006

Loose ends

Classes start today, and I'm not going to campus. Pretty novel! Exhilarating, even.

I thought I might feel anxious as my semester of research leave officially begins (anxious about the need to "get things done"--get everything done! Ack!), but instead I feel remarkably focused and ready to go.

I guess that's why the sabbatical exists. (Although what I'm on is not actually a sabbatical, that lovely reward after tenure and six years' work. I've shifted around and so haven't built up six straight years anywhere.) After six years or so, one finally has done enough thinking, enough circling, enough gathering, and is finally ready to write. At least that seems to be true in my case. I *feel* ready to get this book finished at last.

But, lord, the loose ends. Last night, in preparation for a fresh and focused start this morning, I decided (at long last) to go through all the notebooks I've kept since leaving graduate school. I have six (although I feel as though I might be missing one) bound "composition" books, which have long been my note-taking medium of choice (though I'm slowly switching over to electronic notes in order to make the transfer to manuscripts smoother). I put in post-its to indicate divisions, and I labeled the post-its according to what I was taking notes on. And I noticed two things:

1. I have taken a lot of notes on a lot of things, and although there was always a reason for taking notes, I've moved from topic to topic very rapidly. No wonder I feel as though I've been unfocused or scattered. I have been. (Even though the scattering has been productive, for the most part. It just hasn't been productive in the way untenured faculty at research universities are supposed to be productive: ie, it hasn't led to quick finishing of the book.)

2. I have a s***-load of notes on John Dewey. And while I've given two conference papers on Dewey, I've published nothing that so much as references Dewey. Note to self: When this book is done, you're writing an article about Dewey and emotion/management. Got it? Put those notes to work.

(And why do I have so many notes on Dewey? Well, back when I was an optomistic beginning assistant professor, I thought my book would be done by the end of my second year out. I had been given reason to believe that this would happen. And so I wrote a grant for summer research on Dewey--because at the time I was interested in the whole "democratic" discourse thing and because SIU has a Dewey Center, where I did a bit o' archival research. But all that Dewey research kinda put a damper on getting the book (which has only the smallest tangential connection to anything Deweyan) done. And then the anxiety over getting the book done kinda put a damper on doing anything with Dewey. But it would be shameful to waste all those notes.)

So, Day 1 of my research leave. Doing something with those loose ends, in this case the loose ends of Chapter 1 (which has nothing to do with Dewey). Onward.


Collin said...

Not that you need me to tell you this, D, but it's okay, too, if you decide that you will never. write. about. Dewey. At all.

I catch myself sometimes thinking that if I don't use something that I've done, then it will have meant a big waste of time on my part, that every piece of my research must go to quantifiable output. But nine times out of ten, because I'm in a different place, those are the worst essays for me to write...

I'm not saying anything you don't already know, but I would take up JD if you want, and only if you want, once the MS is done...


Donna said...

Good point. After all, it isn't like I ever had a burning idea about Dewey, hence the lack of publication. It's just all those notes--yowza. Seems like surely I could do something with them. But you're absolutely right: if I do it out of a sense of duty, it won't be worth reading. So I'll wait and see. Maybe. Maybe not. Thanks for the reminder to avoid being my own personal Puritan (waste not, want not!).

jeff said...

I have the same issue w/pre-tenure sabbatical. I am entering the fifth year, but this is only the third I'm at Wayne. So only this year am I eligible for what is normally given after the third year (you have to do three here to be eligible). I can apply, but I will go up for tenure next year!
So that would be a weird overlap.

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