It’s been a long time since I was really focused on work in the first place. Most of August I have spent creating the conditions to be able to work really productively at Yale later. That “later” is now, and even now I still really need to get into the swing of things.
The picture is my amateur iPhone rendering of study carrel 35 on floor 2M (the mezzanine between the 2nd and 3rd floors) in the Sterling Memorial Library bookstacks. It’s mine for now, and it’s better than most because it has natural light (indeed it looks out on the beautiful Hall of Graduate Studies in York Street). It is a strange combination of extremely spartan (hard chair, no impulses other than your own thoughts, no coffee or toilet anywhere near) and luxurious (wifi, silence, the possibility to have any book or document you need delivered).
I have lots of plans, too many really. My dissertation planning says I now need to rewrite stuff I previously wrote and to come up with an introduction, but I don’t feel ready to do that. I have deadlines (for the FDR American Badass article and a few other things). I’m auditing a course War, Memory and Identity, taught by Jay Winter and David Blight, the first meeting of which was great, but I cannot yet see where it will take me, or even how it is precisely related to my research.
The problem is not that I don’t have things to do, but that I feel like I’m looking for something but don’t know what it is yet (which is also why I can’t write that introduction). There are lots of great people here, whom I’d love to meet, but it’s difficult to approach them, because I don’t have really concrete questions or issues to discuss with them. I would love to read books but I don’t know which ones (or, which is saying the same, I know too many I should read). I would especially love to suddenly meet someone or read something that makes me understand on a new level what my dissertation is all about (indeed, what I am all about). Until then, preparing the book proposal, the article, or the talks that I am hoping to give (next to writing that introduction) is a bit pointless. And yet, trying to do those things nonetheless is perhaps the best way into happening upon what I’m looking for.
Bloody creative process. Can someone make it go away, please?