With coursework well and truly over for me forever, I find that now I am in a weird place in my academic life. It’s that place when nobody is telling you what to read anymore. As I sit here attempting to write proposals for conferences and scholarships, I realize that I am adrift in a solitude that had only been hinted at before in academe. There is, of course, the solitude one inevitably feels periodically when it comes time to write the term paper or in reading the required materials. There is something different, perhaps even liberating, about those tasks because you know that you need to report back on your findings. This feels much different and I don’t expect it gets any better.
I spent the summer almost basking in the freedom afforded me by breaking the shackles of coursework and regular class routines, though now that the fall has come that same ‘freedom’ is ominous at best and materializes itself spectrally in the vast white space of various projects I need to be working on right this second, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to do it. I don’t dislike what I do, though I feel a softening occurring when it comes time to commit something to paper. It is almost as if to say “Why bother? You won’t be marked on it”, which is exactly the wrong way to feel about the process from here on in. Of course I am being marked on everything, all the time, everywhere. This is what scholarship is (at least partly).
I am just as surprised as anyone that I have been affected like this. When I completed my PhD coursework this past July it was anticlimactic, to be sure, though I was embarking on the thing that was really going to allow me to set myself apart from the other academics and folks in my field. Right now I have stalled and that may be in part due to the strange start of the new academic year without classes. I do have a class to teach, which ought to help keep me grounded. Other than that, I think I’ll just need a swift kick in the pants to get me productive again. We all do from time to time.
Sorry to be a downer. Look for the next installment of how to read an academic book, on this blog next week.