As the years go on, it increasingly seems to me that my life as an academic is characterized by two different rhythms. First and most obviously, there is the academic calendar, the “school year,” which determines my day-to-day activities. For my long-term research goals, however, the calendar year plays an increasingly important role. Summer vacation comes in the middle of this second rhythm — the first part of the calendar year consists of laying the groundwork for whatever I’m going to be doing during the summer, and the fall and winter provides space for the “mop-up work” when I inevitably don’t get as much done as I’d planned during the summer.
This year, my rhythm was dominated by the two Agamben translations, which turned out to be much more labor-intensive than I expected. I thought they would provide a comfortable background radiation of steady work that would lay the foundation for other research, but in reality, they wound up requiring almost full-time work for most of the summer, and a significant amount of continuing work during the semester. Now The Highest Poverty is all but finalized (I corrected proofs last week), and Opus Dei will soon follow once Agamben responds with his requested changes. Both are now essentially behind me, though — by the time they actually come out, I assume it will feel like I worked on them a lifetime ago.
I was also fortunate this year that the end of the calendar year corresponded to a major “clearing of the decks” in terms of promised writing obligations — several deadlines for invited journal articles and book chapters converged around the end of this year, and now my only major promised pieces are due in the distant future (August 2013 and January 2014). I am also going to finish Zizek’s Less Than Nothing and write at least one review of it, most likely before the calendar year ends as well.
…so what I’m trying to say is that I am now facing the Abyss of Freedom — all the more so in that I don’t “have to” do any research or publication at all for my advancement at Shimer College. My current thought is that I want to devote this year to serious research for my long-promised project on the devil. During the spring term, it seems to make the most sense to focus on important secondary sources and theoretical works that seem relevant to my project, then really dig into the primary sources in the summer. That would perhaps leave me space to work up a proposal in the fall that I could shop around at the AAR (and I would hope to present a “theoretical” paper giving the broad outlines of the project at the AAR next year as well). Then the following year I could actually write the thing. (This would dovetail nicely with The Girlfriend’s grad school, which will begin in January and last for two years — it’s fundamentally arbitrary, but it appeals to me for us to have major projects “synchronized” like this.)
It also seems to me that it would be fun to finish up another long-threatened project — a book on creepiness, which would itself be the completion of my “negative affects in pop culture” series. The two previous volumes did not take long to write, and I’ve reached the breakthrough point with the creepiness concept that led me to finally write up the sociopath idea (i.e., having a clear enough idea that I get frustrated when others don’t seem to grasp what I’m saying). From a certain perspective, this might seem like taking on gratuitous work, but I think it would work well as a creative outlet while I’m working on the devil research.
What about you, dear readers? How do you conceptualize your future writing plans, if any?