I was going to just do a boring post about what I’ve managed to do this week (not enough!) but Renaissance Girl’s comment on my last post inspires me:

“Spreadsheet with data for article.



Sometimes I feel like I’m in a different field from…you know, other folks in my field.”

Well, I am in a different field from other folks in my field! Maybe because I was once a STEM-field major. I’m a concrete rather than an abstract thinker. I don’t get on well with theory. I like manuscripts because they’re concrete things, and I like research projects where I can count things like corrections, or marginal comments, or uses of a particular language or type of vocabulary. For a long time, especially in grad school but continuing afterwards, people found me weird (or “naive”), and I struggled to be different (that is, more like the people who thought I was an unsophisticated thinker) but I have finally said, “Screw it, I’m doing what I do well (or at least what I love enough to work at),” and it’s working for me.

That is, I like what I’m doing. Two acceptances in the last 6 months, both a bit outside my real field, but all the same, those decks are getting cleared. The article with the spreadsheet was a conference paper last year, that was solicited for a journal after a member of the editorial board heard it. I’m doing something right.

And I have to remind myself of that because the conference paper in progress is a hot mess. The initial stage, last winter, was so promising, but now I need all kinds of non-circulating material that is available only in places that take at least an hour to get to, mostly more. And in some ways work is going backward: a connection I thought was direct turns out to be a step-relationship, not blood, and that may be a problem. I have a feeling I’m going to be finishing up the research in the BL, in hours snatched between other scheduled library visits and meetings, and writing the final version of the paper on the train the day before I give it.

I still have a week before I leave. There’s some time to sort some of this out. It will be all right.

It better be all right, because I really can’t hand-wave my way out of this one. This is the problem with concrete, spread-sheetable research: you have it or you don’t. And when you don’t, it’s obvious.

5 thoughts on “Finishing the week

  1. I work in a field (and on topics) that don't terribly lend themselves to spreadsheets, but I use them anyway (partly as a procrastination device, partly because charts help me think more clearly). I used them for my PhD exams: 11×17 paper, 8 columns across with a different topic in each column, one row per book I had to read. For my current dissertation chapter, I have a 4 column spreadsheet to keep track of particular sorts of references in the poetry I'm working on, and it's been fabulous to realize I essentially have a searchable concordance.

  2. N&M: no, I'm not a real historian. I do more what Sapience is doing, though I must say I hadn't thought about them for exams. But exactly that sort of thing for studying references, and yes, the charts help me to think clearly.

  3. I'm not a historian either…I did write a paper in college on Emma in the Middle of the Agricultural Revolution that the professor liked quite a bit. But no, I see how Sapience is using spreadsheets. My mom does something similar with index cards in boxes.

  4. Funny–I too was a STEM-major, converted into this other dimension very late in the game. And yet I've never been drawn to working with manuscripts as concrete things (though much of my work centers on how poetry is itself a concrete thing, but not in the way that requires me to attend to manuscripts, if that makes sense). My point was: you're cool.

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