Friday, July 3, 2009

Alex Beam Forces H&E Hiatus

Well, not really. Alex Beam isn't forcing me, of course, to do anything. But his well-received new book, A Great Idea At The Time: The Rise, Fall, And Curious Afterlife of the Great Books, has lit a fire under me.

After many worthy post-dissertation/PhD "distractions"---including a new son, many conference presentations, several articles, hundreds of blog posts (over 630 not counting USIH pieces), and a new job (including one year-long academic job hunt)---it's time for me to get focused and tell my story about Mortimer Adler and the history of the great books idea.

Getting on task means giving up some things. What I've discovered over the past year is that, for me, this involves managing my energy as much as my time. I've probably actually had the time over the past two plus years since finishing my dissertation to turn it into an acceptable book manuscript. But I know for sure I haven't managed my energy well enough to complete the task.

Academic writing is not something that comes easy at this period in my life. I can't decide whether this is an internal or external issue. I can write blog posts with ease, and even some kinds of academic articles without a herculean effort. But getting this first book out is going to require my getting over a hump called "activation energy" by chemists. I can't see my personal kilojoules-per-mole/reaction path graph, but I suspect it contains a higher than average spike early on my "book creation path" axis.

[Courtesy: here]

Anyway, here are the things I'll give up to get from A to B:

1. H&E postings until either my manuscript is completed or a set time of 13 months has passed, returning January 1, 2010. Hopefully I'll return sooner, but this gives me some leeway. By January 2010, I should be in a groove, having completed both significant writing chunks and/or any new research required. I will still post things periodically at USIH.

2. Facebook. Wow, what a time suck.

3. Sports. This means not following the NFL (Chiefs and Bears), NBA (Bulls), College Basketball and Football (Mizzou), and baseball (the Royals). My one exception will come in baseball: the Cubs. I have to keep up with a retooled Cubs team that is still likely to break my heart. Plus, following the Cubs is a family activity: the rest of my sports "commitments" are solo.

4. History blog following, with a few news-oriented exceptions (i.e. AHA weblog). I'll check in occasionally, but I don't want to commit myself to a regular schedule.

5. Keeping up with politics. Thank goodness the election is over, but I've got to put the brakes on things like cabinet appointments, etc. I'm going to have to trust the Obama administration to keep things smooth on his center-left path. And my wife will inform me of the important details on major events.

These are the things that partially drain, in addition to the day job, my daily and weekly allotment of computer energy (sometimes called "computer eyes" around my house). Most all of that energy will be shifted to the book---excepting occasional USIH posts since my project involves intersecting topics. Writing, as long as it's on topic, breeds more writing. As such a periodic USIH post should help.

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