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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Experimenting with a different work rhythm

Today I got out of the house to work. Part of that was motivated by the fact that my house-cleaner was coming (this isn't a big enough place for us to stay out of each others' way), but long before the sabbatical started, I was thinking about possible ways to change the routine--and the change is facilitated by the fact that my home town now has not one but two non-Starbucks coffee places where I can sit and work in relative comfort and provided with regular doses of caffeine. Today was a good test of the system, as it was very cold--but it was bright and sunny, too, so a nice day to hike off to the coffee place.

Of course, I was overly ambitious in what I loaded in my pack: not only did I take the articles I need to read for tomorrow's psych class, I took my laptop and several of the critical volumes on Le Guin that I own. I certainly didn't need those: I used the time quite productively without opening even one of them.

I will confess that, reading the first of the psych articles, I found it very hard to stay awake. Even though I can summon up interest in almost anything having to do with the natural world, fourteen pages on the various kinds of electroreceptors and electrotransmitters, whether the electric impulses are wave-like or pulse-like, and what the various voltages are just wasn't quite scintillating enough to keep me perky and alert (especially as I had a bad night's sleep last night). I know I still need to read the second article; I haven't even embarked on it yet. (More about electric fish.) But I also didn't want to nod off in the coffee place, and I was craving sugar--my body's way of asking for something entertaining to keep it alert--so I thought I'd do better to switch gears.

So, I started writing the framing paragraphs for the critical overview chapter, and whaddaya know: as soon as I started writing, I was wide awake and perky and having a blast. I love writing. Who'd a thunk it. (OK, the length of these blog posts might be a clue.)

But I really do love writing. And what I'm writing in this project is just about perfect, because essentially I'm writing the way I talk to my students. I don't have to sound like a scholar or impress the socks off other scholars: I can just talk about what I think matters and why.

I grant you, what I'm playing with now--and it really is more like play than work--is the easy part: I can roll through a first draft with very little back-tracking and reworking. I save all that, the challenge of revision, until later. First drafts, for me, are more of a mind spill: I just pour it all out without worrying where it goes or whether I need it. I babble. I blather. I go on and on and on. And then I get to organize, tighten, clarify, add, subtract, multiply and divide until the mess has some sort of shape.

But as I said: that's all to come later. Right now, it's just about getting the stuff out of my head and onto the "page." When I'm ready to start revising, that page will become literal: in order to revise substantially, I have to print things out. I can do some revision--actually, more editorial work--on the computer screen, but I really can't tell for sure what I have until it's in print.

Now, however, as I'm using the blog post to put a button on the day and close it up, work-wise, I have to be realistic about when I can read that second fish article. Ideally, I'd do it tonight, but I'm afraid I'll just fall asleep again (though if I'm feeling wakeful at bedtime, that might be ideal). But tomorrow isn't going to follow either the at-home work pattern or the coffee-house work pattern: I have to go to campus (now that the roads are at least marginally driveable), put the last bits in my promotion folder, print out some things (including the articles for next week's psych class), go to a doctor's appointment, then head into the City for class. I could take the gamble that I can read the article on the train ride to Manhattan, but I'm not sure how long it will take to read, so I'm a bit concerned about that. Of course, I don't suppose the world will come to an end if I don't read all of the second article before class (I've been known to say that being in graduate school taught me to recognize what not to read), but I'd like to be the good girl for as long as I can. (Speaking of being the good little student: I amused myself earlier when I suddenly thought, "If I don't get an A in this class, I'm going to be seriously pissed off." I'll be pissed at myself, not the professors, but it reminds me that I used to have "nightmares" that I'd gotten a B in a grad class....)

Given the ways that tomorrow won't fit the usual mold, I may not post to the blog, but I do like using these posts to wrap up the work day, so I expect to write more often than not--even on the weekends, on occasion, as I'm more likely to work on the weekends now than I would be if I were teaching. So, as they say, stay tuned.

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