My research leave has more or less officially begun. Last winter I wrote a description of how I planned to spend my time, detailing a book project that grows out of an article I published on what I call slow agency. That project includes case studies to enlarge the general claim I make in the article and its applicability to other writing programs: working slow has its benefits and calls our attention to the role of objects and minutia in the everyday workings of program administration. Just as I focused on Jim Berlin’s doorstop, a remainder passed on to me from a previous writing director, I anticipated looking at objects in other writing programs to understand their weird energy and symbolic value to what goes on in different spaces.
I might have already begun this project in my head, but I haven’t yet written a word toward it. Having recently transitioned from an administrative position that was extremely consuming, I’m feeling a little bit adrift. I am in control of my schedule. I don’t have to squeeze writing into 15 minute intervals throughout the day. I don’t remember what it’s like to write in long segments; when I tried earlier this summer for an invited essay, I hated it. I did push-ups, ran around the block, held plank, and paid more attention to my cats than they found desirable. My ideal writing situation would run like speed dating–a few minutes of really focused attention followed by change. Repeat, repeat, repeater. Another form of circuit-training.
For now, I’m reading to get ideas, learn stuff, stay off guard (just finished a biography of Freddie Mercury that was too idealized and gushy but had great content–editors, please!). I’ve realized that this is how I do some aspects of “research.” I read for inspiration, unexpected insights and connections, for interest, and with a mix-tape aesthetic. Why not put Freddie next to Toward a Composition Made Whole? So different from the kind of reading we do for qualifying exams–really can’t imagine being able to muster the mental and physical stamina for that experience again. As a reader, I want to wander around some, especially since reading has been hard for me to sustain with any regularity over the past four years or so.
Coincidentally, also want to wander in my writing. Rather than formulating a straight-forward thesis-driven argument, I’m thinking about Kathleen Stewart’s work as an interesting model for combining lived, embodied, and scholarly realities to increase readability and that hot concept in comp, transfer. In fact, I think making visible the value of what we do in RC is vitally important if we’re ever to stop being limited–some might say haunted–by our history. And this entails writing to a non-specialized audience more so than to an expert one.Yes, more so rather than writing equally to both. Chewing on this…