Creating Habits

I left the Belcher book at the office today, which is fine –I have plenty to work on tomorrow. Because I have a young child, and because I know how the academic lifestyle can quickly take over my life without firm boundaries, I try very hard to keep work at work. However, since this blog isn’t “work” yet, I thought I would take a few minutes to give myself the gift of writing about writing.

One of the challenges I mentioned in my last post is the fact that I have to submit a grant proposal next year, as securing external funding is part of the tenure requirements at my university. Grant writing is a very difficult genre for me, because I haven’t had to do it often. Now, it is likely that I will spend the rest of my tenure-track (and beyond, if I get tenure and want to be promoted to full professor) constantly writing ahead: conceptualizing research that hasn’t been done at the same time that I am trying to interpret and write on the research that has been completed. For me, this requires a difficult shift in thinking: when I’m working on the grant, I’m immersed in theoretical literature about language ideologies, meta-pragmatics, and multilingualism. When I’m working on my current writing project, an original article and introduction to a cluster of articles a colleague and I are submitting to a journal, I’m not just immersed in a different literature, but in a different process altogether, one that is much more creative. “The Ethnographer’s Magic” is the way in which we turn field notes, transcripts, and memory into text that straddles the boundaries of narrative and science. It is exhausting, exhilarating, and intense. When I’m in the midst of it, hours can disappear in a matter of minutes, but more often than not writing ethnography is something I do better in spurts –a few minutes to jot down a thought here, a half hour to stare at a blank screen there. I comes in fits and starts, and part of what I want to achieve with this blog is to get into the habit of writing daily, if only a little bit. Of having the book (or, right now, the current project) be something that I am always working on, if only in the background.

But the grant. Oh, the grant. I devote one working day each week to the grant. And each week I resent it just a little bit. Part of it has to do with the difficulties of collaborative work, and the fact that I’m not used to depending on someone else. The other part is the precious hours I could be spending writing up research that has already been done. Research that is sitting there, in a computer file, waiting to be explored. Before I started this whole grant thing, I never realized how energy-consuming it could be. The new project is exciting, but so is the stuff I’m working on.

Ultimately, having the habit of writing every day will help me tremendously no matter what I’m working on. Today was busy, but it was a day filled with administrative tasks: entering grades, emailing students, prepping my courses for next year. The fact that I took some time out of the end of my day –just for the pleasure of writing– is sign that this blog is already doing what it is supposed to.

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