In February, I set myself a challenge: could I write a freestanding article about a work I really loved, send it to some friends, revise it as best I could, and then send it out to a journal? And could I do it in two weeks? (To understand this, you have to know that my neighbor had just busted out a 37-page piece in the space of about a week, and I was feeling a little competitive, not to mention curious about my own abilities.)
The two-week part turned out to be crazy (as everyone watching must already have known). But I did research and write that article, and I did send it out, revise it, and submit it. Next Saturday, it will have been out for a month, which in academia means that I've got anywhere from two to five months to wait for news--if the journal is a responsible one. If it's not, then in about five months I'll be writing to ask what the hell is going on. (But more deferentially.)
The weird thing was that once the article was done, other potential essays on related works began to emerge. (I'm sorry to be cagey about this, again; I can tell you about the project in detail if you contact me in the real world, but I don't feel good about discussing it specifically here.) And so I've set myself something of another challenge: can I research and write a book that I think is timely, as opposed to an historical work that maybe fifteen people will ever read?
Strangely enough, as I did the background reading for what will probably be the first body chapter of this project, I found myself feeling more and more ready to write an introduction in which I'd state some theoretical principles and survey the field into which I'm inserting myself--or, to be more accurate, the field in which I've been working for years and years but in which I'm now examining a different acre.
And today I find myself having a very familiar feeling: knowing that I have all the materials together for a piece of writing I need to do, but not wanting to write it. Wanting to do anything (intellectually speaking) but write it. Plus, the weather has suddenly gotten warm enough here that I have my kitchen windows and balcony door open and have been able to don my Moosewood t-shirt and my silver Birks (without socks!). So you know I want to go outside and endanger my skin for the first time this season.
But instead, with my belly full of omelet and avocado, I! will! write! Or, at the very least, assemble this week's worth of notes and thinking (which currently includes things like a list of crucial noun concepts: identification, projection, animation, performance, translation, relation, interpretation) and get ready for a week of busting out some prose.
Maybe I'll set up another challenge: can I write a book sitting outside in the sun? Maybe by the time the sun comes west enough to wrest my balcony out of shadow, I'll have decided. But actually I know: often, I'd rather be inside, but near an open window or door, than outside. Maybe I'm secretly a threshold person. And so I suspect that I will stay here at my desk, facing out my window, with breeze and birdsong coming through, for the better part of the afternoon.
And anyhow: my Canadian friend has just come by to report that in town, amateur punters are running into each other on the Cam--so good fun awaits me as a reward for industry.