Sidelined

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Between the large number of classes I wound up teaching this past spring semester, and all the other craziness that’s been sideswiping me here in 2021, my ability to do research for my next book just hasn’t been what I want it to be. When I relaunched my Patreon last summer with an exclusive-content model, where a substantial amount of that content is going to be my extended thoughts about the books I’ve been reading, I vowed that I would read a minimum of five books every month, because asking people to pay for my writing entails at least some obligation on my part to provide a certain minimum amount of that writing. I’ve continued to meet that minimum throughout the year so far, but that’s often proven very difficult, and I won’t deny deliberately picking out shorter books on months when I’ve had to race to meet my self-imposed five-book minimum.

My original hope for the summer had been to dive more deeply back into that reading here, but then I picked up a four-week summer class that started meeting a few days after finals week for spring semester ended, and I honestly feel like I’m still recovering from the toll that the past semester took on me. I’ll be done with that class in a couple of weeks, but given how hard I crashed as the spring semester was winding down, I have to anticipate a similar reaction when my summer course ends. I basically have the month of July to myself, but then I’ve got lots of work to do in August beyond even the preparations that will have to go into fall semester, making the adjustments to whatever the “new normal” winds up being as we resume in-person classes then. I still think that I’ll be able to pick up the pace of my reading this month, and do so even more next month, but not a day goes by here where I’m not reminded of my limits. I keep trying to push myself beyond those limits, but given how I’ve been feeling lately, that may have been a mistake.

What’s been bothering me more and more over the past few months is that I still haven’t actually written a word of that next book (unless you count a shorter article on similar topics that I wrote at the start of the year). I will absolutely need to do a lot more reading — far more than even the dozens of books I’ve bought for my research but have yet to read — before I can think about writing anything that I would dare submit for publication; for a project of this scope, I owe nothing less to my potential readers than to be as thorough as possible with my research. As the body of knowledge I build in my brain (and, increasingly, the note-tracking app I’ve been using) continues to grow, though, it’s been feeling more like an office chore, and less like the first step towards some grand work on my part. Experiencing things in that way kind of makes it difficult for me to find the motivation to push myself, on top of just not having that much energy these days because of how I’m being pushed and pulled in all directions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an optimal time for many writers because of the opportunities it afforded to write. In some ways, I feel like I was able to take advantage of that time in some ways here to do those preparatory steps to writing, but the amount of actual writing I’ve done has not been what I’d like, and that could easily be part of the reason why I’ve felt so emotionally exhausted here. Even if I just write test drafts, or I look for other article-writing opportunities here, maybe I need to start writing long-form work again. That’s hardly going to solve all the problems I’ve been dealing with here, but maybe it might give me a little boost, and at this point, I need every bit of help I can get on that front.

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