I went to CVS and bought every nutritional supplement that looked like it might help me focus better. We’ll see if anything works.
Also, my Wikipedia page survived deletion. Thanks to everyone who spoke up 🙂
I mean this with absolute seriousness, Jessica, but I’m also just asking: are you sure that focusing is the issue? Focusing on something you deeply don’t want to do may do no more than prove to you that you don’t want to do it. And if there indeed is a pill out there that talks people into doing things they don’t want to do, I’m not sure any of us should be taking it. But again, I’m posing this only as a question; could the problem be that you just don’t want to write those papers?
Well of course i don’t want to write the papers, Mark, I mean why would I want to write papers on, for instance, The Miseries of Mavillia? But I have to do something to earn income, and at least in academia most of my time is mine to do with what I will. I have yet to find a viable alternative. In the meantime it seems like it should be easier for me to sit down and spit out a paper.
That makes perfect sense. But: pills aren’t going to make you want to do it more. The issue, I would guess, is the difference between “want to” and “should.” You think you should do it, but you don’t want to. That’s the struggle.
My guess is that some people actually would want to write on that Miseries book, whatever it is. But you may not be one of them. It’s not a moral difference, by any means, but it’s a real one.
And quite honestly, again, I haven’t found that in academia, most of my time is mine to do with what I will. It’s just not true. Your time is only yours to do what you will as long as you’re not writing those papers, right? Once you’re writing those papers when you don’t want to, your time is someone else’s. One of the last and most powerful illusions of the academic world is that people have more time in it to do what they want. In my experience, the people who do best in academia are the ones whose desires to do what they want match the industry’s desire to tell them what to do. There’s someone out there who really wants to make a career out of exploring the scholarly literature on Miseries of Mavillia. That person is going to succeed. Of course I don’t think this makes academia worse than other kinds of jobs. Just more or less the same–although academia gives you more time on your own to write what the industry wants.
I’m not trying to upset you, and I’m not trying to distract you either. As we both know, you’re already distracted. But I’m certainly worried that the ethical dilemma that’s facing you is sending you to the drug store for pills–not that I don’t take my share of such, what, “medications,” myself.
I’m banking on my interests aligning more with the market demands when I get to diss. stage. At this point, my job is to prove that I can write on any subject with comparable (mediocre) skill. Unfortunately, I am proving that I cannot do that, or that I vehemently don’t want to. But if I finish these papers then I will be at Orals stage, which shouldn’t be too difficult, and then the diss., which will at least be somewhat closer to my field of interest than the papers I currently have to write. So that’s the rub– pain now for reduced pain later, since there is no possibility of having a painless job. Part of my problem is simply stubborn pride, because I don’t think I should have to write idiotic, mediocre papers on subjects I’m not interested in. That’s not why I came to grad school. That was what undergrad was for. I want to research what I want to research; I want my interests to be considered valid and even to be encouraged; these things aren’t happening and it offends and discourages me. But I think it’s partly a matter of maturity and that I need to look at it as a case of deferred gratification– if I can only get through x, then I can have y.
even if a job in academia is still a job, it does seem that it is more forgiving than, say, a job at IBM, in some really important ways (the flexibility of the academic schedule, for example). Also, it seems as though you *like* to write papers (and that you write v. good papers), even if you don’t really like writing _these_ papers. Once you get through this, you will be in a position to choose what you want to write about, and it sounds like that is something that will make you happy.
Interesting & strange take on academia–have you all lost sight of the fact that it’s not the research or the writing that destroys academics but the teaching. Does anyone really think–with all the growing legislative pressures facing colleges–that all but the select few will be facing close to 100 intransigent freshmen every semester and thus 500 or so essays to grade (do battle against?) This will make writing papers on The Miseries…. seem like the joys of slowly reading Proust.
Jessica, I clearly remember agonizing over grad school papers and cursing the topics (even the topics I chose). Sometimes the work just piles upon you, and then it seems hard to focus because all you can see before you are endless papers and citations.
But, you will finish your work, and it will be brilliant, and then you will have a well deserved drink (or four) and relish your triumph.
P.S. Give me your new mailing address, and I will send you a mini-version of my term paper/comps/thesis survival kit. Nothing pharmacuetical or otherwise works better.
P.S. #2 At some point even the most devoted scholar gets frustrated writing about a topic, even if it’s their topic of choice. It’s completely normal.
I forgot to say that you’re my new favorite Wikipedia entry!
@mdetorie, this is exactly how I am thinking (or trying to think, in terms of hoping for a better situation long-term)
@myshkin, teaching is the only part of academia that I consistently find rewarding, challenging, energizing, and fun. The most papers I’ve ever had to grade at once is 80, which does get repetitive, but it’s not as bad as writing 100+ pages on topics that bore you silly.
@gillian, thanks! 🙂
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