I try to keep a record of writing productivity, a la Silvia's How to Write a Lot
, but that particular spreadsheet isn't one I've opened in a while. "Here I am," it says to me, and I'm off in another room with my fingers in my ears, singing "La la la, I can't hear you. Look! There's another book on flying dinosaurs to prep! Another paper to grade! Another set of response papers to read!" I have never used teaching
as a distraction and procrastination device before, but lo and behold, that's what I've done this semester.
This morning, in trying to write and get back a sense of order, I took a look at the spreadsheet. The record has more zeros in it than a hedge fund manager's salary, except that mine doesn't have the mitigating number before those zeros that measures worth in millions or billions. No, I just have zeros where a record of days spent writing could be.
To be fair, a number of those days were on-campus days, usually 3-4 a week; that means 12 hours per on-campus day, counting travel, and an absence of opportunity to write between teaching, dealing with students, and attending committee meetings.
But that's really an excuse. What I've done is like making a big sandcastle instead of building a house: by the time the semester is done, all the writing on those papers, all the prep--everything--will be washed away, and I'll be standing there on the beach with nothing except satisfaction in what I did with teaching to show for the semester.
Now, that kind of satisfaction is valuable to me personally, and presumably the effort I put into teaching helps students, but in a count-happy culture (how many publications? how perfect are your evaluations?), it doesn't really matter to anyone except me. As we're constantly being reminded in a count-happy culture, and, as we remind our students, effort doesn't count. Product does.
So although it's not one of the traditional times to turn over a new leaf--beginning of the semester, January 1--I'm going to get back on this particular horse of writing, and to do that, I have to record the progress I've made. I'm going to stare down those zeros every day until they turn into something else: evidence of work accomplished.