Always a shift in gears, as the kids get ready for another school year and the weather starts to cool, I always find myself sliding into a nostalgic frame of mind. Most people reflect on the past year over the holidays in December – custom has convinced us that we are to reflect on our lives at the end of the year. But for me, the smell of a woodstove burning in the cold autumn air is what brings me to the point of reflection.
I love autumn. Never mind that my birthday is in September and I am a big believer in celebrating one’s birthday, but I tend to find myself thinking back to all the Septembers of my life – on all those first days of classes. The new haircuts and crisp new clothes. But this is the first fall that I am not prepping for classes (of my own of course). I am not rushing to find out what books I need and where the classrooms are. It is a strange feeling. Thankfully, having schoolage children allows me to continue to live our that nervousness vicariously through them.
Oddly, as August winds down, it is the first year in as many as I can remember that I am not feeling particularly nostalgic. I am not looking to the past with a sadness for what has past. As the sun pulls away slowly from the earth, (or the other way around), I find myself feeling like something is beginning. Without my ritual of class preperation, I notice that my responsibilites (academically) have shifted. It hit me hardest this summer – when I was writting my chapter. It was the first time that I had honestly felt that I could not slack off. I could not submit hurried work and accept a hit in my grades as a consequence. It made me realize that this – if I choose to continue with my PhD and an academic career (as I plan on doing) is how the rest of my life will be.
As fall approaches, I realize that I am busy as hell with things that will forward my ‘career’. Organizing what has become an international symposium on research methods; participating on a panel at the inaugral Canadian Game Studies Association conference; working on my thesis and applying to schools for my PhD. My ‘career’ has always seemed like a distant goal, one that I thought would never really come. For all the years my family had joked that I would be a ‘professional student’ I suppose somewhere inside of me, I had come to believe it.
So for the first time in my life, at 33 years old, the coming of fall feels like a step forward and not a wistful look back on my life. Stepping forward to a place that I have etched out for myself. Quite honestly, as scarry as it feels – its a great kind of scared!
After a long day staring at my screen, and technically August 16th, I have finished the book chapter that I have been working on over the summer. The crunch hurt more than usual, but I am relatively happy with the end product. Always open for more technical editing – it is off. Holding my breath for feedback, I can take a day’s rest and visit with some out of town company.
As I sit here, typing this post, I am well aware that there are other things that should be penned instead. I am working against a deadline of August 15th for a 5,000 word book chapter (due out in 2007). I am about a half of the way through it, yet I have known (and should have been working in it) since March.
Yet, like everything else I have ever written, I have procrastinated to the relative last minute. Over the past year, as my work load has increased, I have learned that “last minute” has broadened, instead of 3 or 4 days being acceptable, a week is now “back against the wire” last minute. But why can I not work months in advance of a deadline? Surely there is some psychology written about procrastination and productivity. Every time I think I might not make it this time, I accomplish what seems to have been the impossible. And knowing that I have yet to actually fall flat on my face putting things off till the last minute, I continue to take the (calculated) risk.
My justification has often (and is this time again) that if there is no fire under my backside, my creative and intellectual juices just aren’t firing on all cylinders. I wonder, is that true? I know that it forces me to choose my words and stick with them for the lack of time – dilly-dallying trying to find the perfect word, phrase or sentence structure. It (in my opinion) avoids flowery language since I don’t have the time to write poetry while toiling away on some social theory. But how much better would my work be if I took months (or three years!) to work on one project. Without distractions, other papers or articles, thesis’ or extra-curricular academic activities. Would my work be better simply because I dedicated more time to it?
Sadly, my proposed abstract (Finding Ourselves in Play: Identity and Identification in Video Games) was not accepted to be part of an edited collection on cinema and games (linked in the previous post). It was a bitter-sweet rejection. I was excited to be part of this project, and had the entire paper written (to be edited of course) and so I was saddened to be rejected – but on the other hand, the tight deadline of September 1st for the full paper when we only found out today if we were in or out – made my chest a little tight. I am still struggling with a chapter that has already been accepted (and is due August 15th) – so the rejection, I suppose, is welcome in a sense.
Which is always how I feel when I submit something – sad but releived. Although I am quite a chatty, outgoing person in my everyday dealings, my career – or path towards one, is plagued with a fear of public speaking (and a fear of failure – but then, who does not feel that fear once in a while.) So, while I push forward to be a bigger part of something, I am secretly scared to death.
Scared or not, I won’t stop at this book. I am now looking for a journal or two that I could submit this paper to. It is a nice balance between game and film studies literature, as it was originally presented in a department of cinema/film class. If anyone has any suggestions – feel free to post a link in the comments.