The Art of Constructing Houses & Articles

10 Jan

I have finally recovered from both my cold and the American Historical Association Conference.  However, I still have much more to do on my article.  It seems that the more I work on it, the more I research, and the more I revise, it seems that there is even more to do!  I realize that no essay or book is ever actually complete.  At some point, though, one must call it finished, submit it, and move on.  I’m not there yet, but I am hoping that by this time tomorrow, I’m one step closer.  At the moment, the article resembles a house that has been stripped of its siding and gutted of all but the studs inside, a process with which I am intimately acquainted. All the pieces are scattered in groups of “like” materials around me as I consider what I am missing and determine the best way to reassemble everything.  A timeline of the etymology of particular words and ideas central to my argument, as well as a concept map created two nights ago have become incredibly helpful blueprints for restructuring the essay.  The next step will be to decide the best way to use the historical evidence I’ve gathered in conjunction with my linguistic analysis.  … a task I shall leave for tomorrow and the following day.

Relearning to find joy in this process has certainly been interesting and has had more peaks and valleys than the Appalachians.  I still haven’t discovered what mix of factors lead to distraction-free days, in which I am thoroughly immersed and engrossed in my work, and what combinations of events, thoughts, and decisions contribute to my “ADD” days when I cannot focus and want to do anything but work on articles and academic reading.  Today was a very productive day.  I finished both my individual abstract and the panel summary for the upcoming American Studies Association conference, organized all of the materials relating to the conference, finally cleared out the dozens of unread mail messages from the past two months, caught up on reading I’d set aside for a “later” time, and even made enough food for several healthy meals this week.  I’ve been energized and excited about my studies and feel very positive about the results of my efforts today.  The only difference between today and yesterday was that I got a good night’s sleep, thanks to allergies and the subsequent dose of Benadryl. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but in until I figure out what else helps, sleep and serotonin-boosting exercise are an obvious place to start.  I’ve also found that thirty minutes of devotions, meditation, prayer, and journaling to be a great way to start the day.  It clears my head and reminds me of the world outside my problems and anxieties.

Tomorrow I am returning to the Newberry as a “daily reader,” rather than a “visiting scholar.” While the difference might seem minor, it isn’t.  As a visiting scholar, I had access to a study carrel – my own little retreat, where I could keep both my own and Newberry sources, where I could hang maps I constantly referenced, and where I could settle in comfortably while I researched.  Since I’m short, I brought in a little foot rest to take the strain of my hamstrings and piled (my own) thick books on the chair so I was at the right height to type at the immovable wooden desk.  Alas, my position as a “visiting researcher” lasted only a semester.  Despite the hard, ill-fitting chairs and desks and restricted hours to which I return, I am grateful to be able to remain in Chicago for two more months, especially since I changed my dissertation topic earlier this fall after realizing the source-base didn’t exist for my original idea.  Thank goodness for the sweaters and wrap I received for Christmas.  Now, I just need to find a really good (and thick!) chair cushion. 🙂

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Research, Self-Reflection


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