I know that New Year’s resolutions are a bit silly and all, and most involve middle aged men and women trudging off to the gym at 6 am for a couple of weeks in January, but I’m not the only academic to indulge in this annual opportunity for personal and professional introspection.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a ton of fun. I have enjoyed working on projects quickly and, frankly, a bit obsessively. I’ve enjoyed the staccato beat of deadlines both self-imposed and external, and the regular appearance of completed projects.
Recently, though, I’ve struggled to get back to or even deal with a few more involved and long term projects. For example, I have only returned the work on a volume documenting our excavations at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria largely because the task of moving it completion seemed a bit overwhelming. I have been reluctant to start John Brooke’s Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge 2014) because it seems too damn long (and I have no idea how Kostis Kourelis convinced me to pony up $20 for Alan Moore’s Jerusalem: A Novel (New York 2016) other than it’s economical $0.017 per page cost!). I have a 100,000 word textbook manuscript that needs sustained attention and an online History 101: Western Civilization class (upon which the book is based) that requires revision, updating, and change and a largely still-born untextbook project. I have 10,000 photographs from the Bakken that a begging for some kind of analysis or, at least, organization. Most of these projects require more than a couple of weeks of sustain attention. I can’t bang them out over a long weekend fueled by excitement and coffee, and they’re unlikely to leave me with a sense of general satisfaction because – other than reading a book cover-to-cover – research doesn’t work like that.
Over the life of this blog, I’ve frequently written about process and even more frequently about slow, but maybe I’m more interested in process and slow and taking my time in theory than in practice. Over the last couple of years, at least, I have paid more and more attention to getting things done and the excitement (and addictive stress) of racing toward a deadline. I love looking at a “to do list” and thinking “how on earth will I get all this happen?” And even when I fail to get through the list or things fall through the cracks or the quality of my work isn’t what I hoped it would be, I have convinced myself that this is no worse than failing at a self-imposed work-out goal or feeling the sting of a favorite team losing a game that I predicted them to win.
Maybe this year, I need to get back to really believing in the process and take the time to nudge these long term projects along.