Sobriquet 38.3

Yeah, so today was another one of those days where I stayed in bed far later than I should have and, once I did get out of bed, I could not focus on my work. I have not taken a full day's break from the dissertation in over two weeks and I am beginning to think I should take a couple of days off to recharge my reserves, but I know I will not enjoy myself unless I have something written to show for my effort. Still, I'm getting to the point where I am just groaning at the thought of reading any more criticism and I notice more and more that my chagrin manifests itself in a stubborn refusal to focus on whatever I am reading.

Needless to say, I procrastinated much of the day.

I sorted songs in my iTunes library, then I solved a few crossword puzzles, then I told myself I would check email (and ended up procrastinating more). Then it was, like, ten at night. When I finally managed to eat a bit (while watching Seinfeld), it was well neigh eleven...and I still hadn't done much.

At that point I seriously contemplated driving six hours to New Bedford, Massachusetts to attend the annual Moby-Dick marathon reading. Something, anything to escape the wretched sense of stagnation I feel. In the end, though, I opted to make a few more votive candles, if only because the lengthy process would force me to stay up late enough (it's almost four-thirty) to get something done.

And I did.


As I mentioned earlier, I have been working my way through the book-length studies of Coetzee, picking up a few useful tidbits of critical insight and cursing Age of Iron for having inspired so much discussion. I feel obliged to review every piece of criticism published on the book if I am going to write about it, but I am really struggling. I have grown weary of the repetitive nature of the critical discourse and frustrated by the time it takes to digest the unnecessarily convoluted writing style some critics still use. Thankfully, the chapter I read this evening was not one of those. Graham Huggan, one of the more prominent figures in postcolonial literary studies, penned an interesting look at entropy and evolution in Age of Iron for a collection of essays he edited, and I found the chapter insightful and rather unique in perspective.

Regardless, I have felt burnt out and frustrated over the past few days, and I crave a bit of unencumbered free time. Since the next semester starts up in less than a fortnight, however, I don't know how likely it is that I will find the time to do so. I desperately want to finish the section on Age of Iron so that I can take a couple of days to relax without the anxiety not having written a word would likely inspire. Although a daytrip would help me recoup some of the energy I will need to better handle the stress of preparing syllabi and beginning the next phase of the chapter, I imagine I will have to find some other, more immediate outlet for my tension. Indeed, batting cages come to mind...

I am disappointed in myself for having spent as much time as I have on a novel that doesn't figure very prominently in my overall project, but I am hoping that, with Disgrace (which inspired a huge critical discussion) already tackled, I will be able to move more quickly through Elizabeth Costello and Slow Man (and possibly Diary of a Bad Year, which I have yet to read). Since the post-2000 novels have considerably fewer articles written about them--a fact which likely owes more to their relatively recent publication dates than to their lack of rich content--and because I enjoy the texts a good deal more than Age of Iron, I imagine it will be a bit easier to make my way through the criticism.

I hope.

I suppose I am just burnt out, again. I mean, I have been in a consistently burnt-out state since partway through my Master's degree, so I am accustomed to periods of exasperation, but as my thirtieth birthday looms menacingly on the horizon, I often feel that I just want to finish this chapter of my life, close the book, tuck it snugly between my past and my future, and move the #@$% on.

All I can say is that graduate study is definitely not for those people who crave instant gratification.

Still, I refuse to allow today's frustrations to get the better of me. This is not the nadir of my will be a reminder to myself in the future that I have gotten through bad days before and can do so again.

For tomorrow: Try to get through as much of the remaining book-borne criticism as possible.

Work Cited

Huggan, Graham. "Evolution and Entropy in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron." Critical Perspectives on J. M. Coetzee. Eds. Graham Huggan and Stephen Watson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.


minxy said…
Deep breath....and exhale slowly.

As I'm a knitter, I've had a tendency to liken just about any process to some kind of knitting project. I'm likening your dissertation to knitting a sweater. There are lots of different parts, some tricky shaping here and there, and it's something you like to do, want to do, have to do but are also a little worried about how it'll turn out. Some knitters want to just get the materials (yarn, needles, pattern) and dive right in without knitting a gauge swatch, all the while knowing that a swatch is the best way to determine if the knitter's end result will match the desired end result. You, my dear, are in the swatching stage. You almost have your 5X5 square finished, but you just want to get on with it already. So, here's what a knitter does when he or she wants to start the project without finishing a swatch: knit a sleeve or pocket...something small that will gets the project started, yet doesn't matter as much if it has to be ripped back and re-started. Write your chapter introduction. Or write down some of your thoughts that you want included in the chapter, but are not sure where you want to put them. Write small things that won't be as annoying (or painful) to re-write if they don't turn out to work with your desired end result. You'll get a sense of accomplishment because you started writing and if it's not the way you want it, it's not like you wrote the whole chapter (or knit the whole sweater) only to find out it doesn't work the way you have it. :)

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