Tuesday, August 14, 2007


It's funny how I seem to be constantly reinventing the wheel. If you went through my archives, you'd find that I learn the same lessons over and over. I'm constantly having to learn from myself.

I've been in a funk lately. I've been wandering around in a daze, procrastinating out of a vague feeling of anxiety. I've been feeling like I've been losing time, feeling guilty about wasting time, avoiding everything that makes me feel guilty, and thus wasting even more time. And then the cycle repeats.

While we were eating supper tonight, I hit that point of frustration that I always end up hitting, where I get fed up with the funk and start vocalising what's wrong in my brain. Chris helped me realise exactly why I'm so fed up with comps right now: I have no creative outlet.

Normally, I'm reading for research, meaning that the reading is towards the end goal of writing. I'm processing everything so that I can put my arrange my thoughts creatively into a written work. With the way I'm reading my comps books right now, there's no creative outlet. I'm just passively receiving information quickly, day after day after day. Book after book after book. And that's tiring.

That's when I realised that I need to change the way I'm doing things. First, I need to change the way I'm reading. I need to use those creative little tricks I use when I have writer's block, especially right now while I'm in the reading version of writer's block. (Reader's block?) And so I'm wearing my "psychedelic princess dress,"* with candles lit around me and folk music playing. Using the same tricks I've been using since high school. It's so silly that it cheers me up and gets me working.

Step one: silly up my work environment, to break out of the funk.

Step two: change my free time activities, so that I'm finding more creative outlets. When all I'm doing is watching TV and reading stuff on the internet, I'm just doing more passive receiving, filling my head with more unprocessed information. Chris and I are thinking up different activities for the evenings this week: on Thursday we're making apricot freezer jam. I'm also going to try my hand at making pesto, considering how much fresh basil we now have. There's a part of my brain that's also seriously thinking about making some non-breadmaker bread. I think all that kneading would be good for me.

Apparently, I love to cook. I'm also trying to spend more time playing the keyboard, because playing music helps me a lot. Writing on this blog is also good for me, actually, because it's an opportunity for me to write.

I'm going to look around and start evaluating what makes me feel creative and energised, and what drains my energy. I need to start making this a priority, because I'm getting bogged down by all this reading.

* A neon pink medieval-looking dress that I found at Value Village in the summer before grade 12. I had briefly toyed with wearing it as a grad dress, but then found a fuschia 70s bridesmaid dress to wear instead.


Meg P. said...

And in a few weeks, you'll have the creative outlet of helping organize Meggy and Karl's new place! Yay for organization! And for getting to see each other again!

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Hooray for getting to see each other and for organization!

Scrivener said...

I think you should try to rethink the way you're reading for comps. I'm not sure I got it until after I finished my comps, but I realized then that what I should have been doing was reading each book with the question how would I teach this? in mind. I don't think you can read every book on a comps list thinking about what paper you'd write about it (though it's not a bad question to ask yourself), but you can read them all thinking about pedagogy: what are the interesting issues here and how would I bring them to light for students? Which other books from my list would I put up against this one? Which sections of this text would I need to do close readings of with the students? What questions would I ask students to consider?

I don't know how much teaching experience you have--by the time I took my comps, I had some but not enough to figure out that I should be asking those questions of myself. Right after I finished the comps, I started teaching intensively and my entire way of reading shifted radically from what I had learned in grad school.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Scriv, the funny things is that my prof just gave me the same advice yesterday. He gave me an exercise of taking the Socialism/Anarchism books and formulating essay questions that I could assign to students, where they would have to consult those sorts of sources. He's also having me ask what sort of level of student I'd assign this book to (undergrad text book? helpful essay source? only let them touch this book after they're aware of the whole historiography?).

You're completely right. I need to get more into the mentality of "How would I teach this?" I get so caught up on trying to just finish and understand the blasted book that I forget the point of what I'm doing.

Kate said...

I second Scrivener's suggestion, it was one I heard several times while reading for comps. I've even heard it taken to the extreme -- a comp question that asked the candidate to create a curriculum based on her comps reading, justify the choices, and outline the course based on the curriculum developed. So it's an excellent way to organize your thoughts.

Another gem: Keynotes. This is a free computer program that allows you to take notes and organize them in hierarchically arranged folders. It's brilliant for people like me who are completely inept at taking notes by hand (the illegibility! the hand cramps!). The notes I took on Keynotes while reading for comps have been a blessing while writing my dissertation.

You know, when I'm actually writing and not procrastinating.

Keynotes is available free online: www (dot) tranglos (dot) com (slash) free (slash) keynote (dot) html

Limon de Campo said...

I need good creative outlets too. That's cool that you are thinking them up in advance. I'm going to try that, so I don't end up in the evening wandering around trying to figure out what I should do (and then I always end up working.)