Friday, October 10, 2008

Wist; or, Giving One's Inner Nerd a Hug


So as I look around at blogs written by people in the world of general-audience writers (such as here, here, here, and here) at this time of year, I sometimes feel wistful. I see people preparing for NaNoWriMo and so forth. I see encouragement to finish creative projects and get one's stuff out there for publication.

I stare outside at the colorful leaves doused in golden sun, and I think of all the writing projects stacking up in my brain behind the (mostly academic) ones I'm working on, and I feel wist. Great wist. I look outside, and it seems that far away, just beyond what I can see, there's this shimmering vista of greener-than-green grass with springtime crocuses popping out of it. My stack of academic tomes on historiography, archival theory, and even the fascinating rhetoric of conspiracy look pale and anemic beside this green vista, as does the stack of term papers and conference papers that is my October's goal.

These papers are important for me to do. They're intellectually stimulating. They are helping me prepare for other future writing tasks I must do, both inside and outside of the academy. But it's hard to remember that some days when the just-out-of reach crocuses seem to pulse with their purple brilliance.

I think there are good reasons for me to feel that these current tasks are marginalized ones from the perspective of the general-audience writing world--after all, they will not be concise, beautifully sounding writings for public consumption, which is the most acceptable thing in the world of writers that write to sell. Nor are they going to be the kind of aesthetic production that's seen to be acceptable to those in the writing world that aren't so concerned about sales.

(If one were to represent the whole writing world as a social landscape not unlike high school, then, I'm clearly a nerd on that landscape, even if within the academic world, I'm the artsy one in the corner. No wonder I feel a bit fractured in my identity.)

But I think my sense of wist is also, at least in part, a crocus-is-prettier focus on what I want to do that isn't so possible right now, rather than being content with what I have, and recognizing that the journey takes time. This stage, my doctoral work, is a process of learning--a time in which I don't have to focus on broad audiences all the time, and a time to collect material for all sorts of writing projects of all genres. A time for germination. And while I may occasionally chafe at having to perform certain writing tasks when there are others that look prettier in my head, this stack of books beside me has some fascinating stuff in it.

And the leaves are pretty.

2 comments:

Claire said...

Deborah, any and all writers can identify with your "wist." All of us feel at one time or another that everyone else is busy accomplishing great things while we play the wallflower. You're not the nerd--unless we all are (and that sounds about right). Hang in there!

Deborah Leiter said...

Thanks Claire. Collective nerd-ivity sounds like a lovely condition, actually.