Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That damned book again.

This week, I'm set to participate in a workshop for a few faculty at my institution, led by a scholar of some large stature and reputation and voluminous publication history, with the goal of helping us move toward the publication of some in-progress book projects. It's a very nice idea, and I have to admire my institution for setting it up--my chair, rather, who does a lot to encourage and support those who want to be productive scholars.

I'm actually pretty happy with the chapter we'll be workshopping from my project. It's a good solid chapter, perhaps my only fully realized and complete one, with no lingering loose ends. But I have a knot in my stomach about the workshop nevertheless, and I'm just realizing that I may have a problem with this book that no amount of workshopping with whatever famous scholars want to drop by might help.

I've just recently understood that I haven't really managed to do any real work on this book since my ex and I divided up property. I was going great guns on it while my marriage was faltering (obviously: scholarly work a place to get AWAY from real life), and wrote with fabulous energy a couple of good chapters and a book proposal during the long separation. But I haven't really been able to do anything on it since our split became more formalized.

My fear is that this book has become inexorably linked in my mind with a really painful period in my life, and that I am loath to revisit that mental space. "Loath to"? Maybe (cue the nausea) "unable": I'm supposed to present a paper on Herbert at a conference NEXT WEEK, and not only have I NOT started the paper, I don't even know what it's going to be on. No idea. Not even a poem or issue in my head. I feel paralyzed every time I think about starting it. I'm hoping I can surmount that paralysis on the airplane on the way to the conference and bang SOMETHING out.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Hm...for your conference paper: maybe you should try to write something about "inability" in Herbert's poetry. Don't know WHAT, but maybe there's something about paralysis or being "unable" to do something or reconcile something. I know nothing about the subject, but it would thematically work with your feelings right now. Good luck anyway.

Flavia said...

My fear is that this book has become inexorably linked in my mind with a really painful period in my life, and that I am loath to revisit that mental space.

I went through this with one of my recent chapters. And although it was only one chapter (and only the breakup of a long-term dating relationship, rather than a marriage and household), it did pass. I found it was difficult to get back into the project initially, and all I really got done over a long-break was some rough-cut rearranging--and then a semester intervened. But when I returned to the project a THIRD time, I could do real work.

I imagine it's like anything else: the first time or two or three you go somewhere or do something or see someone associated with your old life, it's hard. But then new memories and associations get built up around those activities, and the experience gets decoupled from whatever it is that you've now moved on from--because you have.

Flavia said...

Oh, and as for your ranking yourself among "those who want to be productive scholars"--girl, please!

Renaissance Girl said...

Flav--thanks. I didn't mean to be self-depricating with that "those who want" bit: I meant that my dept has some faculty who really don't want to be fully active scholars anymore, and they shoulder more of a teaching burden. And those who WANT to be productive--as in , those who intend to produce and maintain the eye of the tiger-- are being given good support and opportunity and funding and so forth. I meant it not as modesty but as a compliment to my dept.

Ink said...

I am wishing you the best on both projects. (1) Hope that your presentation goes smashingly well and that the wave of success and goodwill it generates will replace the loathey feelings with happy ones. (2) How about go to a coffeehouse and treat yourself to a lovely chai or latte or something, settle down with Herbert and just read around a bit for *fun.* Then see what pops out? If you aren't tied to a specific topic, it might be cool to surprise yourself, too. :)

In any case, best of luck all around.

Blue Cheese said...

"I hope they aren't ALL like this" vs. "you could send this off tomorrow."

'Nuff said.

You're a rock star. Good luck this weekend.