Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An hour a day might be too much

I composed a whole post in my head today (on my way to and from the eye doctor--it is just possible that the Endless Eye Problems of 2009 are resolved, and that I was just allergic to my new contacts) on the whole just-write-for-an-hour-a-day-and-you-will-be-an-accomplished-scholar! thing. But I don't think that I'll try to reconstruct it here. For one thing, no one is holding a gun to my head and insisting that I be an accomplished scholar right now (Field certainly isn't; I could roll into tenure with my few publications). Nor is that rhetoric actually out there to justify my 4/4; it's just trying to help carve some space for writing and to get around the excuse of not having time. So my attack was on something of a straw man.

But you know, this month has been exhausting. My talk two weeks ago went well, by the way. None of the questions were wackadoodle and it was fun to introduce people to my field. I felt poised and polished. My slides were gorgeous.

And then that weekend we went to a wedding in Northern City, and the next day my eyes (contact allergy!!!!) were so red and sore that it hurt to open them.

And then on Tuesday of that week TM had a formal dinner for eight in our home for a visiting speaker, because the only restaurant in town is Pizza Hut and so if we want our 7:30 pm speaker to have a decent meal, it's pretty much that or the dining hall. (He did all the cooking, but there was the cleaning/arranging/general hectic-ness of getting eight people into our wee dining room.)

I have no memory of Wednesday-Friday, but I'm sure it was busy.

Was that really just last week? This weekend I sort of crashed and just read for class, finished my article, cooked, and didn't grade.

Next week is a big Honors "banquet" that I'm organizing from scratch.

The day after the banquet, we're up for hosting the division meeting in our living room for the second time this semester. This means cleaning, snacks, wine, furniture rearranging. (I fully support the off-campus division meetings, but I like them best when they're in other people's homes.)

Tomorrow I'm flying to DC for this conference thingy (not presenting or anything).

I've had to grade papers from pretty much all of my classes in the last two weeks.

Spent three days conferencing with freshmen (Thurs, Fri, Mon).

Spent two afternoons watching Teacher Ed presentations (two to come next week, too).

You know I'm teaching four classes, right? As are most of you all, I know. This is not (despite appearances) a busier-than-thou post. In fact, this week--or at least today through Saturday--could almost count as a lull. But I. am. tired. So tired. I've found that I cannot be up past 10 or I am incurably cranky in the morning, and this is not fair to TM.

So what does this have to do with the hour-a-day business? Well, as I told myself in the car this afternoon, yes I sometimes have an hour to spare (although I cannot really reduce the time spent prepping my courses, as this is pretty bare-bones other than the seminar, and I think that I owe it to my students to prep well for that; and my service commitments are not optional; and I am the Honors program at this point, so that's got to keep going; and at my college, on my campus, if a student wants to meet to talk about a paper, you meet with him, although of course you can set boundaries for when that happens, but honestly some days are so booked up--for both of us--that there aren't many options other than 8 am or 4 pm; and I feel ethically bound to attend actual academic events on campus, since we have so few of those and so much that is fluff and there are so few faculty and even fewer who show up for lectures; so really those hours aren't all over the place--and no I don't watch TV, though we cram in an episode of Rome, these days, at 10pm on Saturdays when we're tired of working, and I find it hard to work on Fridays after 5, and yes we spend some time on the weekend hanging laundry and raking and cooking, but that's important; and did I mention that I'm up by 6:30 every morning? Yes I swear this isn't a busier-than-thou; I am simply very tired this week and must bitch). So Yes, I have an hour some days when I could write or read. Once in a while I even do write or read for my research.

But often, when I have an hour, I want to go to bed early because I'm exhausted, or I want to go to a yoga class, or I'd like to talk to my husband or play with the cats. (Or blog. Or, more likely, read your blogs.)

No one disagrees with me. I know.

I just have a tendency--going back to my youth, at least high school, though it was decidedly latent in college--to feel that if something could be done, I should do it. Or else I was a slacker.

So I read all the "write for an hour a day!" stuff, and I totally endorse it, and in moments of energy I embrace and proselytize.

And then I get exhausted, and stop. And I feel bad about that, like some kind of slacker.

And that's not right.

(Humor me, all. This is a long, pointless, fighting-the-straw-man whine. But I need it.) (Oh, and hey, lookee here! I composed the post I was not going to compose. Evidently I have some spare time on my hands, eh?)

And I wonder, too: How the hell do people do this with kids?

(And all the while I do genuinely love my job, in all of its parts, even comp, sometimes. I'm just...tired today. And yesterday. This week.)

(Oh, and I will not be taking my computer with me Thurs-Sat. I will take the pomo novel I'm teaching next week, and Wolf Hall, which will be pure fun, and 17 Brit Lit papers. It will rock.)


P said...

I admit I've been rather public in my endorsement of the "write for an hour a day" movement (hereafter WFHD?). And I'll also admit that as manageable as it sounds, it doesn't always work out for me. I'll blog more about the while WFHD soon. Just wanted to say that I totally get the nature of this post and *do* think that spending time with TM and feline recreation *are* good and *do* matter.
And maybe when things even out at Field you'll find more time for your writing and research (seems like a particularly busy semester for you).

As for people with kids: the WFHD is sometimes the only option -- esp. on the weekends. But that's another story for another time.

(((((chamomile vibes)))))

undine said...

I love this phrase that you coined: "a busier-than-thou post."

And also what you said about the "hour a day" commandment.

Sisyphus said...

You are not a slacker! Do you realize you get more writing done working a 4-4 than I do unemployed?

There's the other book title to consider, too --- Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day. I always thought that meant that periodically revisiting the project, if only to keep in mind where the pile is and what point you're at in it, is the key. You can work in 15 minute bursts in the regular weeks, and hour bursts on the rare and wonderful light weeks.

And your whole "living well" theme is important --- why have a job if it's not to have wonderful experiences with students and give you time to have lovely stints with nature and loved ones and favorite hobbies?

Most importantly, it's your blog and you should be able to bitch about whatever you want in it. Go go go!

Unknown said...

Hey - I'm reading "Wolf Hall" too - I only get through a couple of pages a night before I can't concentrate/keep my eyes open. But great so far! Also have the new Byatt in hands - we'll have to talk soon to compare notes...

Good Enough Woman said...

First, it sounds as if your last week had at least 11 or 12 days in it.

Second, if you ever want some tutelage in being an underachiever, or at least lazy, let me know.

Third, Dude. I misread "pomo" novel as "porno" novel. Bad eyesight, I guess!