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Making Room

I’ve just gotten back from a trip (about which, as I said on Twitter, I hope to be able to write soon) to find it pretty solidly fall around here. Less weather-wise, though there is the beginning of a little crispness in the mornings and evenings, than in a more intangible sense of atmosphere; my online pals are pretty much all back in class (except for those of you on the quarter system; your calendar confuses me, seeming to derive from an entirely different cosmology from my own), preparations for the convention are no longer strictly behind-the-scenes, and things have generally taken on a slightly faster pace. The year has definitely begun.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the change of calendar year has rarely inspired me to the kind of stock-taking and resolution-making that the start of a new academic year does. It’s time to break out the new notebooks, to put on your stiff new bluejeans and shiny new sneakers, and make a plan for the year ahead.

My plan this year involves launching a major new endeavor at the MLA and beginning to plot a couple of others. It also includes a bunch of talks and conferences, about which more soon.

But it also involves turning some part of my attention to the next Big Project, which I think last week’s trip helped me figure out some crucial things about. One of the key things that I figured out last week is that space and time for working on that new project will not magically appear in my schedule. If I’m going to make any headway on this thing, I’m going to have to make room for it.

It’s the kind of realization that seems totally obvious, as soon as you’ve had it, and yet betrays one of those continually recurring blind spots that I have about my work life: I cannot do it all. If, as many have observed, there are tasks you have which are urgent, and tasks you have which are important, and if the urgent stuff is often stuff that other people ask of you, ensuring that the important stuff is properly prioritized is totally on you. Everybody else would be perfectly happy for you to go along attending to the urgent.

I don’t mean to make it sound as though I’ve figured out that “everyone else” is infringing on my precious time. In fact, the issue is truly my own: my tendency is to agree to do every neat thing somebody asks me to do, and (as I noted a couple of weeks ago), I need to do a better job of sorting through those requests, ensuring that the things I agree to do are in fact the things that will best support what I want to get done.

What this boils down to: I have a big writing project that I hope to make headway on this year. In order to do that, I need to ensure that any small writing projects I agree to take on are working, at least in part, toward the goals of the big project.

That’s my resolution for this new academic year: I’m making room for the important. We’ll see how well I do at sticking to it.


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