Well, I finally started writing about The Master of Petersburg today. I'm not too crazy about what I have written so far, but I do not think it is complete crap. If anything, it is only 88% crap. The other twelve percent is shit. Or so it always seems when I start writing a new essay.
In all seriousness, though, I rarely feel confident about my academic writing. I mean, my work has earned a few accolades over the past few years and I have published my share of scholarly writing in peer-edited journals, but none of that really changes how I feel about my current academic writing. For me, it's always a matter of what have you done for me lately? Only the "you" becomes "I" and "the academy" replaces "me."
So that's where I am, again. I know that I was in a similar place when I began writing what was to become my chapter on Age of Iron back in January, but whatever tenuous confidence I carry from that ordeal's surprisingly positive conclusion hardly counteracts the heavy doubts that always seem to spring up when I work on academic writing.
At any rate, I brushed aside as many of the doubts as I could this morning and set about starting the introduction. Having spent far more time producing less than satisfactory preparatory writing than I would have liked, it was both refreshing and uncomfortable for me to begin writing the new chapter. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I had initially intended the Age of Iron and The Master of Petersburg sections to form part of a chapter on Coetzee. Now, however, since the direction of my dissertation seems to have shifted from a multi-author study in which Coetzee figured to be one of several authors whose recent fiction I would examine towards a more concentrated single author study of Coetzee, I find myself more than a little bit concerned with the amount of insightful writing I could possibly devote to a novel I had long assumed would require no more than five or six pages of my project to discuss. As a result of the new direction I have taken, I spent an additional month or so reviewing The Master of Petersburg which, while not wholly unpleasant, has added a sense of stagnation to the process. This, of course, is neither an accurate assessment of the time spent rereading the novel nor an entirely unreasonable sensation. What it amounts to, though, is a rather hefty dose of unwelcome nervousness.
The resultant anxiety has made beginning the chapter a bit more difficult than I had hoped and I find myself forgetting the various insights I made during fits of nerve-induced academic amnesia. Likewise, although I jotted down reams of notes and have thrown together an outline flexible enough to accommodate freshly remembered ideas, I sometimes feel lost amid an overwhelmingly sprawling body of knowledge. If anything, I feel like Lucy trying to maintain order among the chocolate candies on an increasingly speedy conveyor belt:
So I started writing and, so far, the people to whom I have shown my writing assure me that, despite my fears to the contrary, it makes sense.
In addition to writing, I would like to continue working on the dual-track approach I have been using (reading for/preparing for/writing the present chapter while reading/preparing for later chapters), so I will probably begin rereading Disgrace soon.
For now, though, I am going to put my still-aching body to bed and listen to a bit more of the Paul Auster novel
For tomorrow: Write and/or plan a bit more. Begin rereading Disgrace if I find the time and energy to do so.