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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Level of productivity: moderate

Maybe that should be how I title my posts while I'm on sabbatical, by starting with my evaluation of my productivity for the day. Today went pretty well. Of course, I will always think I "should" have done more, but my father used to say, "Have you been should on today?" I should on myself all the time, and it truly isn't tremendously beneficial.

I've been chipping through the print volumes of criticism that I have, working through in order of library return due date, and along the way, I kept thinking, "Haven't I already done this one?" Fortunately, I haven't reinvented any of those particular wheels, but I discovered that part of my confusion was because the same authors and titles keep showing up in all sorts of places, so I may have located any one particular piece through several databases as well as several print volumes. I just spent a little time making a list of what I have in print (and whether it's in my own personal collection, the campus library, or received through interlibrary loan) and then comparing that against the articles I've downloaded from databases, shifting duplicates into separate folders (because, you know, god forbid I should erase anything). It probably would be profitable to do the same for what I have on the databases, but I think I've caught the duplicates there. It is interesting how I lose track. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if, at some point, I discover that I did, in fact, write up an overview of the same source more than once. I hope not, but it's entirely possible.

So today was another "set the timer for 45 minutes" day, but today, when the timer went off, I'd reset it for 5 minutes and walk around the apartment for that amount of time before resetting for another 45 minutes of work. I've been doing most of my writing standing up, reading sitting down, but even that's not enough to keep my body from getting  completely stiff and kinked up. The walking--even just doing figure eights in my relatively small apartment--helps. And I'm looking forward to a more substantial walk in the great outdoors as soon as I finish this blog post. I continue my attempts to keep my body in good shape even while I'm primarily concerned with mental production, though I confess that there are some days (yesterday among them) when neither mind nor body gets treated very well. Very interesting to live in these rhythms instead of the rhythms I'm used to being on campus.

But speaking of mental rhythms, I had intended to keep on chipping away at the critical material until I have it all done so I can get it out from under my feet (at least in a first draft), but today I began to wonder if I might do better, be able to sustain work periods of longer duration, if I mix it up a bit each day: do some work on critical material and then switch to working on something else. At this point, I've honestly forgotten what I've already done and what I still need to do. (Time to print out the one-page version of the proposal, so I can at least remember what I said I was going to produce.) I haven't done anything yet with the novel itself, for instance, and I do know that I said I'd give students some suggestions for themes to pursue. True, working through the critical material will help with that: I'm being reminded how strong some of the themes are, even though I rarely focus on them with my students: the gender thing tends to eat up all the focus, as it's the big mind-blower; the other themes are more subtle (and in some ways, consequently more subversive,  but that's a hard sell to the students). But there's also the glossary and pronunciation guide, which will require a careful read through each chapter: it's going to be hard to focus on pulling out the words that go in the glossary and not get caught up in simply reading for the love of it.

That reminds me: I was reading Harold Bloom's introduction to a volume of critical views on the novel that he edited and was enjoying his glowing praise of Le Guin as an artist. Then I flipped to a Bloom-edited  volume of critical views of Le Guin's writing more generally, not focused on the one novel--and not only are many of the same articles in both volumes, but his introduction is exactly the same. I suddenly found myself sneering a bit at him: "Oh, you've got the big name now, so you don't have to come up with any new thought. In fact, I bet you didn't even pick what to include in the volumes: some graduate student schlub did it for you and got zero credit. How much of your work is really your own any more, hunh, Harold?" Even "his" database is pretty slip-shod, in my opinion--but maybe I'm just grumpy because he can lounge about being Harold Bloom and I have to work so very hard to be little ole me.

OK, so setting aside my jealousy (in part by recognizing that I would never want to go through what he had to go through to get where he is: the circles he travels in are far to brutally competitive), let me reflect back over the day and see what feels good. The main thing, I suppose, is that I only have another three articles to read (yes, in the Bloom volume that I got from the library) and then I'll be able to return everything to the library before picking up the new books that are waiting for me there. I'm not sure when I'll make that run to campus, or whether it makes more sense to do it at the start of a day, then come home to work, or to work first and then cap the day with a run to campus. That will be something for me to contemplate tomorrow--and looking at the library's hours will have something to do with that decision (as will whether/when/where I'm meeting Paul this coming week). Now, however, before it's completely dark, I'm going out for that leg and lung stretch. More productivity tomorrow, I fervently hope.

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