I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be commenting on student project proposals and working on an article that is three weeks overdue. And, that is exactly why I’m writing this.
Recently at RRCHNM we’ve been having a lot of discussion about why some of us offer much less in the way of public commentary on the field, our work, and the various and ongoing controversies, such as the relationship between “Maker DH” and “Theoretical DH.” As someone who is a little bit on the quiet side of this divide, I have been considering how I got there. It’s not as if I’m not deeply engaged in the work of DH–and here I mean Digital History, not Digital Humanities, because that is the primary work I do. In fact, I think that the deep engagement with work, DH and otherwise, is the reason for the quietude.
Let me explain.
As the director of the public projects division at RRCHNM, I am currently responsible for the forward progress of nine projects (soon to be ten — Thank you, NEH Division of Public Projects, for funding our mobile site on the history of the National Mall). That means nine work plans, nine sets of reporting requirements, and nine sets of deliverables. None of that work would be possible without the incredibly hard work of the twelve people who make up the public projects team (if you don’t know them yet, you should). Together, twelve months a year, we do the work of digital history, producing websites, software, implementation guides, and whitepapers. It is tremendously fulfilling work, but it is a lot. And there will be more since we are grant-writing non-stop (two major applications in the last 6 weeks).
Then, I have my own commitment to teaching, which is not part of my job at RRCHNM at all. For someone who is not a natural in the classroom, I love teaching. I love interacting with students and helping them develop the skills they need to pursue their own interests. That is why I have taught each semester for the last seven years. In addition, I usually find myself with a senior thesis or two to advise or a directed reading to oversee, or both. Again, this is tremendously fulfilling work, but it is a lot.
As for my own work, I have a book manuscript slowly grinding through the process of becoming one of those old-school traditional monographs. Since, my work on that is basically done (I hope), I am hatching another project in the back of my head. I’m reluctant to let it come to the foreground because I don’t really have the time to dedicate to it, and I could do without the distraction of a project that I can’t realistically pursue. And, then, there is the article for the edited collection that is three weeks overdue.
While this may sound like an extended whine about my work load or a covert call for help in learning how to say no, my real point here is to suggest that with all of these balls in the air, my brain doesn’t rest long enough for me to do nearly as much productive, innovative, and creative work as I would like. If I worked less, I would blog more. Sad, but true.
And I know that there are many many more like me–inside DH and out. One way I know is that we’re beginning to see more and more research telling us that we need to slow down in order to be more productive (See this article urging a return to the forty hour work week, or listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with neuroscientist Rex Jung).
So, as an experiment in April, I’m going to try to heed this advice to slow down some in hopes of thinking more, and being more creative.
Anyone care to join me?
(But, for now, I’m gonna go do that work for the kids….)