In which I attempt to be my own adviser

This has been a frustrating day for work--I was at home all day (with the air on, alas) waiting for a UPS shipment and by the time it came it was too late to go into the city even if I wanted to. In reality, it's been a slow week all around--I had sort of an epic drunken trek through Brooklyn last Sunday after banging out a first draft of the Romanticism project; Sunday's insanity was followed by A's wedding drinks, which was destabilizing on its own and also in Williamsburg and thus requiring a 90-minute trek home; and the overall result is that my sleep schedule is still off, but with very little to show for it. Things looked up briefly on Tuesday afternoon as I spent a lot of time making notes on the latest hard copy of the Victorian project, but it was mainly downhill from there. Yesterday (Thursday) I was so tired at school that I just called it quits and ran errands until it was time to run my area meeting, and despite saying that I wasn't going to drink afterwards, I had four margaritas by about 8, came home and did who knows what but it certainly wasn't make dinner, crashed out early after talking to The Poet on the phone, and was up from about 1 to 4 a.m. anyway. I probably should have just made coffee and got to work. But of course I didn't do that. I have been trying to work on the Victorian project all afternoon, evening, and night, but it's not going anywhere--I'm feeling totally blocked, and nothing seems to be helping. I'm starting to panic a bit--it was one thing to throw myself on the mercy of my one committee member for the Romanticism project, but I can't do the same thing with the Very Important Editor of the Very Important Journal, who suggested last month that I send him something around the 20th. (To cover my own ass even then I qualified that with a "thereabouts"--I think that sending something by Wednesday, as long as it is decent, should be acceptable.) It has also been very hot in here--I tried to get through the day with just the fan on and not the A/C, but that was probably stupid. So I think I'll go to school and try to work tomorrow, even though I absolutely despise school on Saturdays.

I don't know what my problem is. It's not the same thing that was wrong with the Romanticism project. I know what I want to do, I know where I need to go. I am trying to stick to outlines and I have several sheets of paper with reminders to myself about what the main parts of the paper need to be and I have tried to be ruthless, in looking through the last working outline that spun wildly out of control, about cutting off lines of inquiry that really don't apply, sticking to the things that the Very Important Editor (hereafter VIE) responded to positively, but also being selective about that. I am not, for the moment, trying to connect the text I'm working on with a bunch of the author's other works. I don't feel the same need to do insane amounts of new research that I did on the Romantic project--though I probably should force myself to read that Gothic Convention book. But for some reason I can just not get started. I have ten disjointed and repetitive pages pasted in from other files, but I can't make them work into a coherent introduction--I think in part because the argument I'm making is somewhat complicated. Or, it's not so complicated, but it's one of those things where I really need to make all three parts come together because I'm not sure any one section really stands alone as interesting. If that makes sense. And I think it will work. But, it will work only if I get the introduction right and I can't seem to do that. I had this problem the last time around, too, so (since that was an outline) I just kind of shrugged and started with "This article makes the case..." Which was unsatisfying to both me and VIE, and we discussed the greater advisability of trying to steer clear of that kind of academese. Unfortunately, beyond that I've got nothing. I've tried out a couple of things but nothing's taking and I feel like I'm wasting a lot of energy spinning my wheels. And I'm mostly just damn frustrated with myself because, after all, a lot of this paper is about fucking premature burial--and if that doesn't lend itself to compelling beginnings, I don't know what does. But I worry about it getting out of control, and I worry that my outline and main points keep sliding out of my head. I've never been good at the whole "framing" thing, and no one seems able to help me.

Speaking of which. I know the other thing driving me right now is the hatchet job that The Professor did on the draft of my Romanticism project. I might be overreacting, and I probably shouldn't have read the email at all, let alone even skimmed his internal comments. But I did. And it's been eating at me since Tuesday, distracting me from the project I'm supposed to be working on, and undermining my confidence at the moment when I really need all the affirmation I can get. I don't mean that I think the draft is by any means perfect, and if I wanted a totally positive reading, I would have sent it elsewhere. I'm used to this with him. But. I'm not used to getting this critique when it's coming from a place outside of our friendship, when the next step isn't to talk more about it in person, when I don't sense any real...I don't know...interest? caring? Like some kind of investment in my success? I know that some of it is meant to be sparring, but...I haven't had the heart to do that with him for awhile--something kind of snapped for me around the night I went out with E. And even though I feel a lot better emotionally in general (and in the specific terms of my interactions with K. and The Poet), I can't muster up whatever it was that allowed me to be friends with The Professor, at least not on the terms that he was offering. And I guess maybe I was hoping that he'd notice, or care. But he didn't. And I knew he'd still be good for the reading and commenting, but what I didn't know was how different that was going to feel when it wasn't backed up by friendship.

(It sure as hell isn't backed up by mentorship. One of the things I always try to do, when reading his work or anyone else's, is offer suggestions where I can for improving things and not just ripping it apart. This is not something that is being reciprocated.)

So, basically, once again, The Professor succeeds in undermining my confidence. (This, as some of you may remember, was something of a theme of last summer as well.) I guess this particular undermining just comes as more of a surprise is all. But perhaps it shouldn't. I think one of the reasons why this is feeling slightly more oppressive this evening is that I needed to consult the hard copy of a seminar paper I wrote on this text about two years ago, and of course the copy I have is not the one where the professor of the class praised it but the one where The Professor wrote his comments. I refer to this as the paper that sucks ass; I totally understand all the ways it went wrong and all that. And I have a certain memory of having been a bit disappointed (but not destroyed) when it failed to impress The Professor as much as I wanted it to. But reading those comments now? Just...wow. It's clear that I was totally in love with him at the time; otherwise I don't think I would have forgiven some of it.

It's a hard line to walk. Because I want rigorous readers. Because a lot of time his readings tend to be spot on, because I don't entirely trust myself to reliably distinguish between his actual arrogance and my inertia or stupidity all of the time. Because I don't think I'm as good as my committee (or just random other people) seem to think I am, and so I'm more inclined to trust him because he's always ready to rip me apart. But I think maybe that's changing, that it's already changed w/r/t the nonacademic part of our relationship and all of the sudden this gets thrown into relief as well.

So I think that I'm better off taking my chances with my own committee members and with editors who have at least been impressed enough with me to think I'm not such a total idiot that I can't improve with a little mentoring and interaction. And this is what I know I need to hold on to. But it's hard, and the length of time I've spent writing this post and not writing my paper is a reflection of that. But, like so many other things this summer, I just have to work with what I've got. And I do feel somewhat better after writing this all out, even though it wasn't totally why I came over here.

To return to the article for a second. I'm probably going to have to do what I did the last time around (since this was the same place I got tripped up on back at the beginning of June with this project). Let the academese stand so I at least know what I'm talking about, then try to go back and put in something interesting. My main work for tomorrow and Sunday should be to articulate the body of the paper, not to cram an anecdote into the beginning. I should at least be able to get through the premature burial parts by some point on Sunday, since I practically know those by heart anyway. And I know my way around this poem, which is something. Beyond that, I let VIE tell me what to do, right?

And so. On top of all this, I've agreed to go to D.C. for about 24 hours later in the week. I'll be joining The Poet on a business trip, which seems rather ridiculously sketchy to me, but as it also involves the opportunity to spend the night in a hotel and thus to take the night off from trying to fight the bugs out of my kitchen and worrying about the effect of my air conditioner on my electric bill. So I'll cope. (I also think this week--he's also planning to come over on Sunday to do some studying--might be the last time he and I get to spend a lot of time together for a bit.) But it does kind of throw a wrench in a lot of other scheduling things and means that I have to be a lot more conscious of how I'm managing my time...like if I don't think I can meet up with people from school for Tuesday night bullriding and not have eight bourbons and get home at three in the morning, I may have to pass that up. Tomorrow (well, today, Saturday) night is the last performance of the last episode of "Hospital" and I will have to be similarly in control because I need Sunday.

And yet, I wrote all of this out and it seems doable. Since I'm already here, why not end on a list? Short of either magically writing the entire Victorian article in the next fifteen minutes or drinking a huge shot of scotch, retyping my list is probably the best way to get myself to sleep.

Saturday: Greenmarket in AM; school (dept lounge) in the afternoon / try to get something printed; Axis in the evening

Sunday: (The Poet, here)--edit what I wrote on Saturday, try to double the page count.

Monday: Completed / printable draft of Victorian project. Email VIE to tell him I have not forgotten our deadline. Get to the gym at some point.

Tuesday: Edits on Victorian draft. Input as many of the changes as possible, including the conversion to Chicago style (though at this point it may not be a top priority). Print stuff for Romanticist project. Print train ticket confirmation. Gym.

Wednesday: Work bee! Hooray! Get the Victorian project sent to VIE come hell or high water. Start working through the Romanticism project again.

Thursday: Gym in AM. Train at noon: work on Romanticism revisions.

...and so on. I do have until August 1 for the Romanticism thing--not a huge amount of time, but a week longer than I thought I had.

Last thing. The UPS shipment I got today was two sets of cushions so The Poet can give me some basic lessons in sitting zazen. This is the closest thing to a religious interest I've had in ten years.

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