Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Makes No Difference

First off, thanks to my new reader (yay!) for joining the fun.  I don't blog much about poetry these days--a topic which I might post about at some point this summer--so if you're looking for posts on poems, you'll need to scroll down a bit.  Or just stay tuned.  You never know what's coming.  I sure don't!

My title today comes from a song by The Band that I heard on the radio yesterday, which sparked some rueful musings about the effects of my recent promotion.  For your listening pleasure, here's the song, in a lovely, low-key cover version, with musings below:

So, about the difference-making, or the lack thereof...

I'm struck, as the summer begins, by how little my daily life changes thanks to what was, in anxious anticipation, such a big, big deal.  Had I not gotten the promotion, I'd be pretty miserable, but it's hard to notice an absence--and day to day, hour by hour, I'm still doing exactly what I did before the news came in. Mostly, that's editing, email, and organizational work, whether for IASPR / JPRS or for the Popular Romance Project, where I curate the "Talking About Romance" blog. I have one last book that I'm editing before that side of my research is done, at least for a while, so there are essays that I need to read and evaluate from those contributors, draft blog posts for the Project to read over, and pieces in the submissions queue--and the readers' reports queue--for the journal. I'm also involved in planning the upcoming 2012 IASPR international romance conference, after sitting out the planning stages of the last two of them.

So as I say: editing, email, and organizational work. 

Add some fun to that--a whole lotta Zumba going on--and then some less-fun family commitments, what with the recent deaths of my 104-year old grandmother and one of my wife's uncles, and her father's ongoing heart troubles, and we have a fullish day, then another, and the next thing you know, it's been a week.

(Those heart troubles are worrisome.  More on them anon.)

All in all, that's not a bad or unproductive way to spend a summer. And lord knows I spent the spring with plenty of all of that work to do, and a crying need for time in which to do it! But it leaves out writing of my own, and reading, and making music, all of which are things I'd planned to spend time on in the summer.  In particular, I'm worried about my popular romance monograph.  If I don't get started on that this summer...well, I don't know when it's likely to go better, or get easier.

Something, folks, must be done.


Laura Vivanco said...

1) I'm really sorry to hear about the deaths and heart troubles.

2) As I understand it, the point of the promotion was to recognise what you've been doing, not metamorphose you into either an emeritus professor or a superhero, so it's not surprising that it hasn't made much difference to your daily life.

3) If you're contributing an essay of your own to the "last book" that you're editing, and given that you don't feel you can publish in JPRS, maybe you can think of it as a good thing that you've been able to use this project and NAPRF to publish some of your own work on romance.

4) If you're not contributing an essay of your own, you're still helping to build/broaden the field. Also, depending on how much work needs done to the essays, you could see it as a form of teaching.

5) Unless you take on the co-editing of another essay collection, once this one is finished you should have a bit more time for your own work.

6) I'm not sure exactly what your monograph is going to be about, but couldn't you build on the work you've already done (a) for the courses you've taught and (b) for conference papers? What's happening to that paper you wrote about poetry and romance? It seems to me that if you could build on work you've already done, it would maybe make you feel a bit less daunted (if you are) and a bit less discouraged by the idea that you haven't started yet.

E. M. Selinger said...

Thanks, Laura, for your thoughtful comments. I could have sworn that "superhero" was somewhere in the full professor job description, but now that I look more closely, you're right!

More seriously, though, I do feel quite good about the work that I've done for the field, and when this whole adventure began, I certainly thought of editing and organizing as the primary elements of "my work" in popular romance. To that extent, then, I'm still right on course--and the final edited collection will bring that phase to a close.

Your advice about building on the existing work dovetails with the advice that poured in on Facebook when I posted my worries there. Many people suggested that since I've been writing essays all along, I simply go back to one or more of those and begin expanding and revising, letting one thing lead to another.

In the end, the promotion's biggest gift may be the way it allows me to take that sort of exploratory attitude--"start where you are and see where it leads you"--towards my monograph. Rather than try to figure out in advance what each chapter will be, then march through them in order (which is how I wrote my dissertation, years ago), I can simply start with what's already in hand or on the workbench, and see where it takes me.

Which, in fact, is what I'm off to do!

E. M. Selinger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Vivanco said...

"Rather than try to figure out in advance what each chapter will be, then march through them in order (which is how I wrote my dissertation, years ago), I can simply start with what's already in hand or on the workbench, and see where it takes me."

I'm sure it'll take you somewhere interesting.

I'm sort of hesitant about saying this, because you've far more academic writing experience than I have, but my feeling is that writing a book on one's own, without a supervisor, and without the consequent time constraints and external direction, is different from writing a dissertation.

I think, at this point in your career, you can afford to take a more playful approach to writing. I don't mean "playful" in a slap-dash way: I mean that you don't have to work in such a regimented way, and you can have more confidence about following your academic intuitions. I think that's probably even more true given how new the field is.

As you've said, "There is work, wild work, to be done!" I'm not sure "marching" is the best approach to that kind of work.