In part this is because my wife's been in Haiti, which means that I've been holding down the fort, domestically speaking: more a matter of extra schlepping (home, work, home) than extra work. I wanted to boast, at the end of the week, that I'd gotten all my work done AND taken care of the kids, but in fact I've been scatter-shot on both fronts. Particularly unimpressed by my cooking, or lack thereof, and by my flat-out forgetting my son's first guitar lesson of the season yesterday. Wasn't on the calendar, so it didn't happen. Ah, well.
I was struck, this morning, by a post at Stupid Motivational Tricks called "Slump." Here's how it begins:
I was in a bit of a slump between about 1998 and 2005 or so. You wouldn't really know it from looking at my cv, though. I continued to write and publish. There are no gaps, periods of more than 2 years without significant publications. From my perspective I was in a slump, because I was writing more than I was publishing and having a hard time putting together a book manuscript. I wasn't having a very good time in my job and suffered from mild to moderate depression. What I did, essentially, is write myself out of it. Now it is clear to me that the work I did during this period wasn't wasted in the least, but I went 15 years without publishing a book.What interests me here is the fact that I went through a similar slump during those years, but handled it differently. Rather than keep writing and publishing, I gave a big push up through the tenure year (2000-2001), then stopped cold: no published essays, no conference papers, even. The gap shows up pretty vividly on my CV--there's activity, including all those NEH seminars, but there's no writing or publishing.
I still bear some ill effects from that period. It took me longer than it should have to become a full professor, and my salary is still far below where it should be in relation to my accomplishments and those of comparable people in my department. I was barely hanging on in terms of living a satisfactory life, but I was still able to write, somehow.
On the other hand, unlike Jonathan (at SMT), I was having a very good time at my job in those years. And not just at my job. At home, in my marriage, as a father, I used that time to go (slowly, slowly) from "barely hanging on in terms of living a satisfactory life" to having a very happy one, not least as I recovered from the sadness of my father's death and the worries involved in some other family medical stuff.
If I bear some ill effects from that period--certainly it's taking me longer than it should to become a full professor!--I also bear some very good effects. More good than bad, on the whole.
This makes me wonder. If it weren't for the money, could I go without writing and publishing entirely now, and just read, give papers, and teach?
Most of me says "yes," to be honest. But the flash of upset I felt in a conversation yesterday--someone said I was a major figure in popular romance studies, and I thought "no I'm not; I haven't published anything yet!"--suggests that maybe there's writing and publishing that I really want to do, now. Internally motivated, not externally, I mean.
And there may be some poetry work I really want to do as well. The poet's I've been reading recently--Lawrence Joseph, Mike Heller, Harvey Shapiro, Stanley Moss--are reaching me emotionally in a way that poetry hasn't for a while. Not sure what that shift will lead me to write about them, but it's interesting to observe.
When I think about those years and these questions, two songs come to mind. I'll put one in another post; with my wife coming home this evening, here's the one for today: