Monday, June 26, 2023

June: Thinking positive thoughts about everything but email

It's June! This is the time of year when the apple & plum blossoms turn to tiny green fruit, when the butterflies entice the cats into trying to catch them, and when the sky stays light well past a tired person's bedtime. How can you not love the summer solstice? I'm trying to be more positive and less critical, and this time of year can be a big part of it.

Work (though not writing) is going along well. It's a kind of work that must be done so that other work can be done--think sorting index cards or classifying and writing down types of paper clips or figuring out what an author means when she says "about that other matter" or dates a letter simply "Tuesday afternoon." But since I'm the one who has to do it, I'm finding it fascinating, or if not fascinating, all-absorbing. It seems like rote work, but it will pay off down the road. It already is, really, in overall connections I'm making in my head about the bigger picture of the project.

June is also the season of non-reciprocity, though. It's the month of the almighty auto-reply, when academics on vacation send you requests, you respond, and you get an autoreply in return, or get invited to subscribe to their substack, or added to their publicity mailing list. And sometimes, you get lots of emails from someone who pays absolutely no attention to the carefully thought-out replies you've already sent. It's communication, all right, but it's neither collegial nor reciprocal, because you've become an instrument, an entity of solutions that require work on your part and will benefit them. The solutions: wait before responding; provide minimal responses; or just don't answer at all. 

Also, you can draw your personal boundaries to maintain focus on your own work. There's a lot we do--reviewing articles, manuscripts, etc.--that counts for very little, and before you say yes to something, think about what you'll learn from doing the review as well as how it services scholarship and the larger academic community. I say yes a lot--most of the time, in fact--but then, I almost always learn something when I do. Other types of service might not be as rewarding, such as writing book blurbs. I used to do this if asked, to be collegial, but last time, I put some significant hours--writing time, remember--into one, and it didn't get used. The publisher can use whatever blurbs are going to best sell the book, of course, and aren't obligated to use what I wrote, but similarly, I'm allowed to spend my time where it's not going to be wasted: on my own writing.

To get back to positive thoughts: June! Early morning air! Lavender! How's your summer going?