Monday, August 21, 2006


Academic writing is terribly fun. You move swiftly through a few paragraphs like an Israeli tank division in Southern Lebanon, with your air force intellect scattering cluster bombs of snappy phrases across a couple of pages. But then you become stuck in a river of referential anxiety and can't go any further. Where's my voice gone? Instead of name that tune, it's name that scholar? Is there any of me here at all? But don't I need these guys to make me sound learned. And you've got to give props to those who came before... And before you know it you are bogged down in the syntax of a sentence. What are you doing here? Sit there looking at it for a few minutes, adjust the posture at the keyboard. Go to the bathroom. Nada. So you backtrack through the sludge to finesse earlier adequate passages in the hopes that will unstick you. Ah these read well, but this one needs to be changed. Click click click type type type. And suddenly you lose your footing as you go over what you thought was familiar and safe ground. You shouldn't have tinkered with that clause. You're in quicksand and you're drowning in the word count and can't see the outline of the argument you'd mapped on so many bits of paper with your favourite rollerball pens. Hasn't it all been said before, you wonder. Am I just rewriting something I did years ago? Have I moved on so little in my thinking? Are my obsessions, guffaw scholarship, so narrow? Shouldn't I be doing something useful like working at the UN instead? Suspend the mission and withdraw for a little while to take stock. Shall I surf the web for related content, check email, fine tune the iTunes? Maybe that way, the path I am seeking will suddenly come into my peripheral vision and I can adjust my direction. Have another coffee or sugary drink to avoid that tempting nap. New resolve. Then you remember the worst part--the soldiers of the academic citation regime (MLA this time) are waiting with their orders to dot and cross and number correctly. But they're still in the distance, like snipers on rooftops ready for an ambush.

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