Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Toward Remembering Oneself

Some days the deadlines seem overwhelming. The list of tasks seems endless. The number of licks it will get to the faux-chocolate center of the dissertation lollipop seems to be one of those numbers that go on and on. Like Pi.

On those days, it's easy to forget a few crucial things. That, for instance, one likes to think. One likes to write. One even likes to turn double-hyphens into em dashes. That one chose one's dissertation topic (or...[insert long writing project here]) because one actually likes thinking and writing about it.

And then something-or-other happens (it's not always even easy to pinpoint what), but the waking occurs. One opens the document. It makes a certain amount of sense. Adding a few citations to Zotero no longer seems like a Sisyphean task, but something that's eminently manageable. One re-reads a few pages from, say, Walter Benjamin, and it jumpstarts the thinking and theorizing battery in one's brain. One starts to think about one's dissertation not as the weight of Atlas on one's shoulders, but something one gets to do. And one begins to revise and write. And it is good.

I think it can't be emphasized enough that I'm not simply talking about a change of attitude here, or a simple matter of procrastination and motivation. This is a forgetting and remembering of self. In these off periods, quite frankly, I'm convinced the grad student or writer literally forgets and/or strongly doubts his or her identity as a writer or a scholar. (Perhaps I'm not either of those things after all, the voices might murmur. Not really.)

Sometimes, in the good cases, something triggers an awakening and the demons flee. The students remember with joy who they are and that they enjoy it. That they really are writers and scholars. That it only takes 1500 or so licks to get to the center of the dissertation pop (the rest of those innumerable numbers are after the decimal point, so they don't matter). That they're already a good way in. And that the center is sweet and chewy.

(Now if only we could find a way for this forgetting to stop happening at least once during any major writing project, for both graduate students and writers in general...)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Publication: Essay in The Spirit of Food

So I promised the URL of the book in which I have an essay and recipe appearing, and there are several of them for The Spirit of Food. I haven't gotten my copy of this fabulous new book yet, but am incredibly honored about the company I'm keeping in this collection of essays with recipes: Wendell Berry, Robert Ferrar Capon, Andre Dubus, Lauren Winner...the list goes on and on.

At any rate, the book's Facebook page can keep you up-to-speed on the great press we've been getting. If you want to order it (which you of course will), it's also at both Amazon and the publisher's page. There's a glowing review at Heart & Minds. And it looks like the lovely blog The Church Cook is cooking a recipe per week and sharing photos, so make sure to follow along!

I can't wait to get my copy and see where this book travels!

Back after a Small Disruption

So after that lovely post last time, in which I talked about how blessedly idyllic and balanced my life had become, my hard drive crashed and everything went wonky for awhile. [Pause given to reflect on the relation between pride and falls.]

Thankfully, my dissertation pages were saved, since I was writing them in the notes function of Zotero. [Pause to say "God bless Zotero" under breath.]

And really, most of the important stuff was saved, and I got a new bigger hard drive out of it for free. [Pause to say "God bless Apple Care."]

It just made it a royal pain to get back up to speed on things. Thankfully, I'm getting close to managing things once again. Life is crazy-busy now, at this point in the semester, but it's feeling a trifle more almost-possible to do this. [Pause after typing words, fearing they betoken another such hard drive crash, but decides honesty is the best policy.]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Drafting Away

So this year reminds me a lot of my MA thesis year. I feel like I'm getting into a rhythm like I did then: teaching certain days, writing others. Training my mind to let the academic thoughts simmer in their polysyllabic stew during spare moments until it's time for them to be served. Feeling the pressure about writing a large document and needing to produce those words on schedule. All the same, enjoying the thinking and the writing.

There's one key difference, however: I'm better at letting those words come out faster. Of course, it helps that the meat of this topic has largely been marinating in my head for 3 years now. But it also helps that I've had lots of coursework semesters and the Big Nasty Exams to force me to write a lot in a short period of time.

Specifically, to force me to be okay with writing first drafts at first. That's important, because that's always been the hardest part for me. Once I've gotten something down on paper, I can do something with it. Of course, I know this draft I'm working on needs a lot of revision. But the fact that it's gradually growing in page count is an important thing. One I'm grateful for.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to Blogging

So yeah, I've been away for quite a few months now. There have been very good reasons. Among them:
  1. I gave a talk at Calvin's Festival of Faith & Writing in the spring. It was lovely. I talked about connections between the mystery genre and faith. People seemed interested, which was encouraging.
  2. I took a creative writing class in the spring (for fun). One might think this would contribute toward blogging, but it didn't. Instead it poured the energies I would have put into this blog into new stories and critiques of others' stories. This, too, was an encouraging process.
  3. I was narrowing in on my main dissertation theory. That was a lot of work.
  4. I've been reading reading reading for the dissertation. I've done the bulk of that, thankfully--or so I hope. I'm in the midst of plowing out pages now while learning to balance that work with teaching that just started up again this week.
  5. I've been teaching a lot, and loving it. I've realized more and more that I really love this profession. I'm particularly fond of coming up with activities based on Food Network and other reality show competitions. The formula is eminently useful for pedagogy.
At any rate, I'm back. Oh, and publication update: I have a new academic publication in the delightfully titled tome Interpersonal Relations and Social Patterns in Communication Technologies: Discourse Norms, Language Structures and Cultural Variables. Since I know all of you are going to run out and buy it, just look for chapter 3 by Deborah Leiter and John Dowd: "Textual Expectations, (Dis)Embodiment, and Social Presence in CMC."

In other publication news of the less academic brand, I have an essay appearing in a new book on spirituality and food coming out next month. It doesn't look like the book's listed on the publisher's website yet, but I'll provide a link when I have one.

Oh yeah, and the latter will be the first print-based publication under Deborah Leiter Nyabuti. It's a good name, and I'm excited about the prospect of using it more and more.