>Uh-oh, now what? (On feeling relief and a lack of motivation)

>On Friday I turned in a revised article as a response to a revise-and-resubmit peer review. Since it was all being done electronically, one of the editors (it’s a book collection) got back to me on Monday and said she was satisfied with the revision and hoped the co-editor would be, too. Wow, that must be the shortest turn-around in the history of academic publishing! And it’s a good thing that she said yes (and, I hope, the other editor will, too) because originally I thought the response was accepted-with-revisions and not revise-and-resubmit, and my merit and renewal documents and dossier all say that the article has been accepted. Oops. (The letter was vague, I tell you! You would have been confused, too!)

But that’s not what the “uh-oh” in my post title is about. Instead, I’m feeling this immense sense of relief and a dangerous sense of liberty because for the first time this semester I don’t have a grant or article or abstract deadline looming. I do owe some friends and acquaintances feedback and other things I promised I’d help with, and I’ve been putting all of those things off for months now. And, of course, there are things to be done for my current classes and as graduate director, such as reading (no grading at the moment, however — ah, the bliss of all graduate courses this semester — no major grading until the very end!) and putting together recruitment packages to send to all the tiny SLACs and the RCUs in the area to tempt people to our MA program. And I need to call a meeting of the grad committee — we really need to see if we can find a way to lighten the teaching load of our students, and we need to discuss the MA exam format. And the chair asked for flow charts of course selection processes (this is coming from the higher-ups — it seems our new president is a “visual learner,” and also, clearly, a micromanager) so I have to do one for graduate courses. And I really need to work on a clearer, more detailed, and physical (not just web-based) grad student handbook, because our students aren’t as comfortable with hypertext links and web organization as we think they are. They like linear narratives.

But I don’t want to do any of that. For the first time this semester I feel unburdened. And for the first time since, oh, I don’t know, 2005, I feel on top of things. And I just want to take a little mid-week break and do nothing but go for a run, read for tomorrow’s class, and meet students in office hours. Nothing but the immediate and necessary tasks, in other words. (Hey, running is immediate and necessary!) And did I mention it’s a crisp and beautiful autumn day? But the blood of my Puritan ancestors is crying “Idler! Wastrel!” And the voices of hundreds of millions of other working people are yelling in my head, “Hey *we* don’t get to take Wednesday off just because we feel like it…even if we do ‘zone out’ for half of the day.” (Heh. I loved Office Space.) And there’s also an Irish Catholic voice in there somewhere mumbling something about a holy day of obligation. Oh the guilt! (And now *you* are saying I should see someone about these voices in my head.)

Right. Ahem. Anyway….I’ll probably at least tidy up my pigsty of an office and work on syllabuses for next semester, all of which is untaxing, soothing, and full of hope for the future. And then that will quiet the voice of the Protestant work ethic in my head. And this is why I got into this profession (well, one of the reasons, well below “because my work fascinates me” and “it suits my talents”) — so that I can decide *which* 60 hours of the week I’ll work!


5 thoughts on “>Uh-oh, now what? (On feeling relief and a lack of motivation)

  1. >I got rid of all those voices in my head a long time ago. If I get too far off course, I have a mid course correcter – my wife (and sometimes my sisters). I think I’ll go for a run.

  2. >I like Anne Lamott’s solution to all those voices in my head: “Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on….Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you….A writer friend of mine suggests opening the jar and shooting them all in the head. But I think he’s a little angry, and I’m sure nothing like this would ever happen to you.” (Bird By Bird 27).

  3. >I often have to remind myself at moments like these, after the writing, and the flow-charting, and the emailing, and the meeting, and the grading, and the lesson planning…That what I’m supposed to be an expert at is READING adn THINKING, those fleeting activities that happen best in the quiet spaces of the mind, spaces that the protestant work ethic is very bad at allowing…So when I find those fleeting, quiet, idle moments, I have to remind myself to tell those voices:”Shush…I’m WORKING.”

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