Perspective

I ended up going to all three days of the seminar at the Ibsen Centre last week. I was glad I did; I learned a lot about performance space from Erika Fischer-Lichte, and really enjoyed chatting with Erik Østerud, who also participated. I feel bad about not getting more writing done on the cabin book, though. All I was able to do  was paste in the sections on Ut og stjæle hester and Villmark, and do a little editing on transitions and the like.

The problem, I think, is that I’m feeling incredibly stressed out right now about my job situation. The fact that I only have six months of paid employment left is really starting to weigh on me. It really may be the case that my academic career ends here, and that thought is paralyzing me. I got word that I wasn’t the first choice for the job I applied to, and even though I know it wasn’t a good match for me academically (it would have entailed moving conceptually quite far afield of what I’ve been working on, in addition to being a position where my research would have been “on commission” and where I would be asked to teach in areas where I have no background or expertise–in other words a steep learning curve on all fronts), the rejection makes me that much more worried that maybe nothing suitable will come along.

There are three quite specific projects I need to work on, and I can’t seem to focus on any one of them because I’m feeling such a sense of desperation. One is quite narrow in scope (read a 300+ page book and write a 700-word review of it), one medium range (do the research for and revision of the Fruen fra havet article), and the third is large (write chapter five for the cabin book). The deadlines for all three coincide with their size, with the smallest project due soonest.

Logically, I know I should just work on them in that order. I mean, duh, it’s obvious. The problem is that they each have such different emotional significance in terms of my future in the field. The review is important only because it’s for the major journal in my field and this is the first time they’ve asked me to review something; I’ll be seeing the editors at a conference later this week, and it would feel great to be able to say that I was done.

The article is much more fraught. I want to have it done by the time I apply for the Ibsen position (but of course I don’t know when the position will be posted), and I want it to be of the best possible quality. I’m worried about not being perceived as a “real” Ibsen scholar because so much of my work is on adaptation, so I want this to stand as irrefutable proof that I can do “real” Ibsen scholarship too. My fretting about this article is keeping me from really focusing on the book review, even though the book itself is relevant to my teaching and to other projects of mine.

Finally, I have a hard time putting off the cabin book chapter because it has been on hold so long already, and because I still have the words of a colleague at a Christmas party a couple of years ago ringing in my ears: it would be “unforgivable” not to have a finished book manuscript at the end of four years. Somehow, the fact that I’ve also written sixteen articles or essays and another complete book manuscript during this time doesn’t seem to outweigh the need to have this damned cabin book done. So that means that every time I try to focus on one of the other two projects, the cabin book screams for attention.

It’s amazing how emotional scholarly research and publishing can become, and how debilitating those emotions can be. For some reason I never really felt this way either of the times I went up for tenure in the states. I was probably naive, but I knew I was well liked and respected and had enough publications not to have to really worry about keeping the job I already had. The difference now is that although I’m well liked and respected (at least where I work) and have more than enough publications, there is absolutely no guarantee that actually getting a permanent job will work out this time around.

So, ugh, I’m totally stressing out. I think my plan for the week is to really seriously set aside the two larger project and just get the book review completely out of my hair. I think it will be a huge relief, and I will then be able to get the most possible out of the conference (and not have to cringe when I meet the journal editors!). I’m giving myself two days of working from home to finish the reading (taking substantial notes along the way) and two days of writing on campus (that will also have to include some final revisions to the conference paper I’m giving on Friday).

It doesn’t seem like very much for an entire week, but I simply have to stop letting all the bigger projects and  issues get in the way of getting work done.

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