Process Report

It will be a week tomorrow morning since I started working on the annotations and corrections to my sample translation for the proposal that I am submitting.  Thus far, I have done five days' worth of brief, regular sessions on the sample, at least two and no more than four forty-five minute sessions per day.  I wish that I felt like I was making better progress.

Which is itself my greatest problem: product orientation, as Prof. Boice would say.  I am too focused on "getting it done," and not enough on doing the work.  But I need to get it done (NB the "need") because I "need" to be working on my book.  But why?  I have been working on my translation for a good year and a half.  I have put hours and hours and hours of work into it, all in brief, regular sessions.  It is a major accomplishment already to have done so much, particularly given that I did the first draft of the transcription and translation over twenty years ago.  I know this for certain because I dated some of my transcriptions: 1991.  (Also, I remember vividly when I was working on it, for reasons that I need not go into here.)  I deserve* to have this translation published, but to do so, I will need to finish it: polish it, annotate it, revise it according to the editors' suggestions, proofread it, and proofread it again when I get the proofs.  For every hour that I have worked on it thus far, there is easily another and maybe even another yet again.

I can feel the panic rising even as I think about.  Years.  Years and years more work still to do in order to get this work published.  Years during which I will still be an Associate Professor.  Years during which I will have to answer colleagues' questions about how my work is going with yet further promises that, "It's coming along."  Not that my colleagues ever actually ask about my work, but sometimes someone does and then I have to tell them, "It's coming along."  Like molasses.  Like watching glaciers move.  Like waiting for dinosaur bones to fossilize.  Sure, those in the know know what it's like.  Real research takes time.  Lots and lots and lots of time (have I written this before?  I am getting a real sense of déjà vu right now).  I need to keep focused on the long term, not worry about trying to finish something in this or that month.  Therein lies panic.  And writer's block.  After all, it only took me a year and half (actually, more like a year, with a break to work on an article plus translate another poem for one of my courses) to do the first major revision to my original translation, and that one I finished in a summer.  All I need to do is keep working on it, and it will get done.

Or will it?  It's been ten years now since my first book came out.  TEN. YEARS.  My son has grown up in that time.  I've learned to fence.  We've remodeled our kitchen and adopted a dog.  I've taught I don't know how many new courses, published a good number of articles, given over two dozen formal talks.  I've even co-edited a volume of essays.  But.  It's been ten years since I published a book.  TEN. YEARS.  I don't want it to be ten more.  But how can I tell when I will finish?  According to Prof. Boice, I am not supposed to worry about it.  Just keep working in brief, regular sessions, and the publications will come.  After all, it's not like I have any alternative.  I can't make a book just by wishing.  (Trust me, I've tried; it doesn't work.)  Nor can I make myself work any faster.  Again, I've tried, and we all know where that leads.  So, I guess brief, regular sessions it is.  Even if it feels like everything is moving at a snail's pace.  On a good day.

As a certain donkey once put it, far, far too mildly: "This writing business, pencils and what-not.  Over-rated, if you ask me."

*In the sense that I deserve to let myself do this work without second-guessing whether it is important enough.


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