So much for days of rest

Posted by September Blue Sunday, 24 February 2008

A day off! a day off! An end to fourteen-hour shifts and dealing with bizarre student convictions over the phone! ("I couldn't return it over the weekend! You can't fine me when you're not even open at the weekend!" "Um, we are open over the weekend." "You're not open at the weekend!" "How do you think I answered the phone?") And a whole day to plan classes and work on my article.

I'm getting quite fond of this article. It's got nothing to do with my PhD thesis - which is probably reason #1 why I'm enjoying it, to be honest - and getting ready to write it meant hunting for books in the Philosophy section of the library, somewhere I haven't spent any serious studying time for a long while. My undergraduate degree was joint English and Philosophy; being back among philosophy books feels enticingly illicit, like cheating on a lover with an ex. I let my fingertips run over the spines of the Kant books on my way past their shelves and didn't even realise I was doing it.

There are problems with writing publication-worthy articles about medium-dense philosophy issues in thumpingly-heavy Victorian novels, though. Fourteen-hour shifts constitute most of them. When the library's quiet, as it is in the late evening, I can work on my own stuff in between students coming to the desk... but I'm tired. Or, I can turn on the home computer and work for a couple of hours before going to bed... but, again, I'm tired. It's not that I can't force myself to write when I'm tired - I wouldn't have got through the PhD if that was true - but I can't write well when I'm tired, and I certainly can't write well about really complex topics that require a lot of cerebral processing power. After a long, long day at work, my brain just can't do the kind of philosophical heavy lifting this article needs. You need publications to get a decent academic job, but because you don't have a decent academic job you need to spend your time doing the kind of time- and energy-consuming work that makes it incredibly difficult to work on your publications. I feel looped.

(And please, please, if you're tempted to leave a comment about how this is exactly what it's like for academic staff having to juggle their own research with their teaching and admin commitments, and how writing the PhD is the best time of anyone's academic life and never again will my days be so footloose and fancy-free, resist that temptation. That kind of free time and research-focused life was not a feature of my PhD years, either.)

And anyway, so. I was looking forward to having a whole day off to work on my article, but fate is cruel, and because I dawdled around and did nothing constructive all morning, it hit me with a sudden and hellish migraine in the afternoon. I would have spent the next few hours in bed if my bedroom hadn't been too bright; instead I curled up on the living room sofa with the curtains drawn and a blanket pulled up over my head, arms wrapped around my skull, sobbing, while I waited for the painkillers I didn't take in time to kick in. When the pain went away, I didn't dare move my head for an hour in case it came back. Literary criticism was not exactly at the top of my priorities list.

And now it's half past ten, and my brain's recharged enough that I probably can work on that article, for all of an hour and a half before going to bed in time to get up for work tomorrow. Damn it.


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. This is exactly what it's like for academic staff having to juggle their own research with their teaching and admin commitments, and writing the PhD is the best time of anyone's academic life.

  3. What did I say? WHAT did I SAY?

  4. Anonymous Says:
  5. Don't look at me.