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Tuesday, 26 July 2005

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Mike S

Scott, if you don't mind me asking, how do you find the time to (a) read and (modestly) review sizable literary anthologies, (b) remain (somewhat) hard at work on that curious dissertation of yours, (c) sift through God knows how many highfalutin weblogs, (d) attend classes, and (e) lavish your wife with attention? Obviously this is none of my business, and I apologize for the brash tone of this post. But I am both fascinated and awestruck by your seemingly Herculean work ethic. I too will soon be chest deep in a swamp of seminars and papers and financial aid checks and deadlines and all else that a doctoral program in English Lit entails. And I am just curious as to how you manage. Is there even a smidgeon of time in your day for good ole procrastination? For if not, I am almost certainly doomed.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Mike, first I should say that it always looks like the person to your left has four or five more hours in their day than you do in yours. Everyone marvels at everyone else's work ethic. However, I do procrastinate productively. For instance, answering your comment has me thinking about my work ethic, which may become a future post. Or another: I read The Literary Wittgenstein when I'm struggling with my dissertation; a couple of hours doing unrelated intellectual labor often primes me to dissertate some more. Same thing with the blog. As I mentioned a while back, the progress I've made on my dissertation on a given day is coded into that day's entry: if it's about evolutionary theory, then you can pretty sure that I'm trying to jump-start my brain, to wrap it around the problems I've encountered that day, which means I haven't made much progress on the diss.; if it's random, then I've probably had an excellent day writing, so much so that I'm comfortable putting the diss. down for the night and thinking about something else entirely.

It doesn't hurt that the Little Womedievalist's also an academic and that we bring out the worst in each other in this respect. As long as one of us imagines the other's still working, we push ourselves to do the same. That we work in different rooms helps maintain the illusion of the other's productivity, and that drives us both to be more productive than we might otherwise be.

Also, I don't attend classes anymore. I'm A.B.D. and haven't sat in a seminar room in years. (I tried to this past Winter quarter, but that pesky cancer killed those plans.) I teach three times a week during the school year, but it's nto the brain-drain that comp. sometimes becomes, it's an intro. to literary journalism course in which we read New Yorker-style articles, learn 'em some basic research and reporting skills, then help them write their own New Yorker-style article.

Oh, and I'm very, very boring.

Mike S

Thanks for the response, Scott. Productive procrasitnation is a habit I've yet to develop. I suppose I'm just going through a bit of "am I really up to this?" Your academic background is, I can't help but notice, just a wee bit prolific, vastly more so than my own. Honors undergraduate program? Rigorous Latin studies? A.B.D. at one of the nation's most respected English departments? You've done pretty well for yourself. Not to mention the fact you've been married for how many years is it, 5, 6? Anyway, I'll stop making you blush if you get to work on that work ethic post. It would be helpful to me to know what sort of regimen you maintain. Which year of grad school was the hardest for you? Why do you feel you've "conned" your way through the first few years? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to digress with reckless abandon.

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