Because every girl should have a mantra, I’ve decided that my new one is: “baby steps.” As in the “classic” Bill Murray film What About Bob?. (Note: in my family, a “classic” does not denote something old and/or venerable, but merely a film that should be watched many, many, many times because it is either incredibly stupid, incredibly funny, or both–most of Bill Murray’s films fall into this category for me). In the midst of the whirl of research and reading and writing–or at least, in the midst of thinking of this list of activities, as I’m not sure I’ve actually done any of them yet– it’s all too easy to get lost in the moment. Every once in a while I have to forcibly pull myself back and repeatedly inform myself (have you noticed yet that I tend to talk to myself too much?) that what I accomplish this semester is not the be-all and end-all of my career. Indeed, my graduate career is important inasmuch as it is the foundation for what follows, but it should not be confused for being a career (although I’m still aiming for the professional student job title). It’s a problem that I see in academia today: graduate students are increasingly expected to be professionalized, leaving less time for actual learning. Invariably I leave my classes–or meetings with my professors–humbled by my lack of knowledge and slightly anxious about how much I have to learn, which is how it should be. Because unlike Athena, I did not just spring out of Zeus’ head fully formed. (Not that I haven’t tried to be Athena–I once dressed as the goddess for Halloween, but my husband insisted that I more closely resembled the “Little Caesar” pizza man–to this day the words “pizza pizza” remind me of my failed attempt to enter the Olympian pantheon. But I digress, yet again). As I was saying, I need time to develop my skills. In other words, baby steps.
With that in mind I’ve started putting my obsessive compulsive skillz to good use: every week I calculate how many pages I have to read and I set myself a daily limit. It’s been fantastic so far–it’s far easier to deal with 50 pages a day than the overwhelming idea of 2 novels (plus research reading and non-academic reading) a week and I get through things in record time, leaving me much more time for writing–or at least that’s the idea. I haven’t managed that last bit yet, as I somehow end up wasting the “extra” hours by watching “Murder She Wrote” waaaaay too much, but hey, Baby Steps. (By the way, I’m working on a theory that “Murder She Wrote” contains the secret to all life, but so far the only response I have received is my husband trying hard not to laugh at me).
So in the spirit of optimism I’m declaring my goal for the week in the semi-public space of this blog (note: because of the fact that my classes land on Wednesday, my mental week runs from Thursday to the following Wednesday). I will do my darndest to write 10 total pages by next Wednesday. Ideally this would be equally distributed among the papers I have to write, but as I have a 6-8 page conference paper due next week, one class will get the lion’s share of my output. Nevertheless, if I succeed in this micro-project, it would leave me in the rather unfamiliar position of having written something ahead of time. I’m a little worried that Hell will freeze over just because I typed that, and as it is currently snowing outside (a sign?) I won’t push things too far. Repeat after me: baby steps.