Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The fear of the day (really, most days of late) did not turn out to be unfounded. I'm likely to be my own worst enemy as I try to develop new ways of thinking about my time and the discipline required to get up every day and tackle the problems of writing a dissertation. My desire to get up every morning and watch an episode of Veronica Mars while I drink coffee and then wander through the park with my dog is not going to go away any sooner than my need to develop a plan of which archive to tackle first come fall. (I thought that part would be easy - you figure out where to go and you go there. I was wrong. I'm often wrong. It's not easy at all.)

Conquering my desires to both be a historian and a slackass has seemed so necessary. But it turns out that these things are not mutually exclusive. The process of doing research and writing a dissertation is going to take more than a single-minded decision to stamp out anything that interferes with my final goal. The idea that I can just be a machine that sorts through papers, letters, and completely random news clippings stuck to the back of a fifty year-old accounting invoice is so unrealistic (and boring) that it dooms me to failure. Not only am I unable to attack things with such focus, it would also just kill the creative process that I know is so essential to how I think critically about my topic. I need to bury myself in documents about book distribution mid-century and then walk the dog and let things percolate. I need to watch Veronica Mars (no, no, I do.) and then read that journal article. It's the dynamic interaction of the stuff of my life that makes my ideas mine.

Plus, I'm just never going to get going in the morning without a long sit with a cup of coffee. I'm never going to get out of the house before 10 am, and the advantage of life as a grad student is that I don't have to. There's no point in fighting a losing battle. My desire to spend the day on the couch will have to be quashed. At least, it will have to be quashed on most days. But in order for me to not just begin but also complete this dissertation, I'm going to have to figure out how to be a historian and a slackass. I can conquer some of my destructive instincts, but others I'll have to embrace.


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