Is Thanksgiving really this week? Living, for now, in a place that has a different history means that such American holidays sneak up on you. Throw in the rapidity with which time seems to slip away and the fact that, despite my initial bitching, the temperate weather, and you lose your place in the calendar.
Generally, I count the days to Thanksgiving because the holiday is a much needed break in the semester. Not an issue right now. In fact, I feel a sense of panic in that I feel so far behind on my writing because I kept taking time to do papers and write a review. Perhaps I should stop that?
Also, perhaps I should adjust my sense of accomplishment to something more realistic. Some little gremlin in my head keeps whispering, "you should have the whole book done by now, you lazy bum!" That little gremlin is a bit like a gossip monger who takes in one little scrap of information and then blows it all out of proportion. It's like this woman whom I knew in grad school who told me that, in our overcrowded, collective t.a. office, another of the t.a.s thought my desk was too much in his way, got furious, and shoved my desk way across the room. You could see the gleam in her eye as she stirred the shit. I confronted the other t.a. to apologize and he said, "no, I just moved it about an inch to get around. I wasn't mad at all." My little gremlin is the shit-stirrer. It takes in the information that I want to be moving faster on my writing, and it takes all of the times I was told that I was lazy in my life, then mixes them all together and produces a potion that I, of course, willingly drink because I have to do everything the gremlins say (right?). Next think you know, I'm in some fatalist fetal position on the couch, wondering how I ever found the will to get up in the morning because I am just that lazy and worthless. I end up sitting on the edge of some precipice, thinking I might as well jump over because I'm going to fall anyway and the anticipation of falling -- of failing -- is far to enervating.
This is why I drink. The gremlins can't handle the alcohol and pass out after a few sips. Then, they shut up and I can fell o.k. for a bit.
Meanwhile, to write, I have called in the big guns: the Monks. Remember Chant? Some years ago -- jeez, over ten, now that I think about it -- I discovered that the Monks buzz something in my head that shakes loose the words. Actually, I think they mesmerize the gremlins, who sit down in a trance and listen. Then, the rest of my head can devote its energies to getting shit done.
Today, I must wrangle the last paper. I finished the book review over the weekend. The book review was a struggle between frustration that it should be so short and gratitude that it should be so short. I'll give it a clean up later in the week, probably next week. On the paper, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm speaking to people who are not going to judge me for my failure to grasp academic language or to address every theorist on gender or to directly engage with the full body of historiography. It ain't that kind of paper or audience. Thank goodness!
I really have to get over this feeling of going into a paper or a panel or even a casual conversation feeling as if I'm going into an oral comprehensive exam in which the odds are against me because the design of the exam is so dreadful: you have to know everything about everything that ever happened and who said what about it and if you don't you FAIL! LIFE! FOREVER! Eleventy.
Yeep! I just had a flashback to grad school! Guess how our comprehensive exams went? I don't have to be that person anymore.
Anyway, I think the thing that will help me revise this paper the best will be Powerpoint. Yeah, scoff if you will, but I've found that, with Powerpoint, I can fill in some of the blanks for an audience who has no familiarity with the basic subject. I can put up a picture of the Big Guy. I can put up a map showing the location of some of the places I mention. I can put up a brief description of different schools of thought to help the audience keep the differences in mind. Visual aids, plus pretty pictures! Doing that sometimes helps group ideas and events together better, too. It's how I do my lectures when I teach.
Another thing that will help will be when I figure out what the grand big statement is. I am so terrible at that because I do have a tendency to get lost somewhere between the details and the Grand Theory of All History. It's a bit like going into a museum to see a Monet and either standing with your note an inch from the canvas to see only the brushstrokes, or standing across the street to see the whole museum, when I really need to stand about half-way across the room and see the painting. I can never see the painting. I'm either looking at brushstrokes or the museum; and I find the brushstrokes more comforting and interesting.