on libraries and writing

February 13, 2007 at 6:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I used to go into the library and look at the shelves and shelves of books much in the way I used to stare at the stars — I was aware of my mortality, my limitations, my *compactness* in comparison to what was “out there,” but it instilled in me a sense of wonder, of excitement, of of hunger, even, about possibilities and expanding borders.  I used to feel excitement in the library, and wonder under the night sky.

Now, though, I feel intimidated in the library, and I try very hard to stay near one or two sections so as not to get distracted from my thesis.  There is so much, even in this small corner, that I will never have the time to read. There is so much I *could* write that I do not have time to write.  I am of an age where I must voluntarily shrink my boundaries in order to focus enough to get anything done, and that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately as I ruthlessly cut gobbets out of my thesis draft, apply for PhD programs that want to know what I want to write my dissertation on, and struggle to balance all of this grading, teaching, writing, reading, and student-ing I have to do.

The library scares me now.  I don’t want to pass doors to walk through others.  Maybe this is just a symptom of thesis writing, but I think it has a lot to do with the experience of being a good ten years older than most of the people I met at the prospectives weekend, and realizing that I might, if I’m lucky, get tenure somewhere a scant eight or so years before my little brother will be thinking about retirement.

It’s not the retirement, it’s just the age.  I need to get over it, I know, but I don’t know how.  For the moment, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and get my butt to the library to haul Baker, Orchard, Shippey, Baudrillard, Magennis, and a crapload of sagas home.

I will make a “content post” soon, really, I will.

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1 Comment

  1. Eileen Joy said,

    Ah yes, the anxiety induced by all those books on the shelves, never mind all those articles piling up in the journals never read, and all those blog posts, etc. Because we live in an age in which speed and quantity are often valued over long periods of thoughtful germination and quality, things will only get worse. But take heart–carve out your own little corner and don’t assume that you have to have read *everything.* As to worrying about your age–and I don’t know exactly what that is–take heart. I was 31 or 32 when I started my Ph.D. program and after two years, I dropped out for about three years to be a gardener. Then I hacked my way through various adjunct positions. At the age of “almost 45” I am only 2-1/2 years into my first tenure-track job, and my friend, I am having a great time of it. So, stop worrying about time, except the time you have right now. And remember: you’ll always be more interesting, as a Ph.D. student, than the onesd who have almost never glimpsed life outside of the university proper since they were 18. Sorry to all the early 20s grad. students out there, but yes, you’re smart, but you’re also lacking ina certain worldly depth that only comes with the paths less travelled. There are exceptions, of course, but they’re just that: exceptions.

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