As a grad student I’m always working on a collection of tasks that feel urgent but nevertheless get put off.
In less than two months I’ve got to have the thing for the conference! I need to revise and submit this essay for publication! I still need to read 900 pages before next week. It’s getting harder to read – should I get my eyes checked? Wait, when was the last time I got my hair cut? They’re taking WHAT off of Netflix next week!?!? I should probably return this library book before I get another angry email but… I need it for this conference thing I haven’t started yet.
Whether acknowledged or not learning to find balance has been a significant part of my grad experience. So, most immediately: I’m working on balance and rethinking what I think counts as urgent in my life and what I hope to stake out as whatever life is post-grad school.
Balance is becoming easier. I keep a pretty tight writing and reading schedule. It was difficult to adjust to such demarcated times but I’ve become used to it and I’ve find that I’m becoming more productive.
But urgency has been a chore.
A decade ago, when I first began to imagine becoming some type of academic I never would have thought urgency played such a big part.
There are deadlines, sure. Sometimes. But writing is mostly done on your own time. Right? Most times? And there is no such thing as a composition emergency. So, it’s a life without urgency.
But as a writing educator, an educator who writes, and an educator who teaches in whatever this new alternative-fact world is – I’m finding versions of urgency in what we do and finding it more and more important to focus on doing the engaged work of the field. So, as a broad academic project, I’ve begun thinking about how Writing Studies scholars frame and articulate writing; how Writing Studies scholars can intervene in our own assumptions and practices; and how Writing Studies scholars can recuperate a sense of the materials and experiences that have been ignored in the field’s histories of education.
As an applied and immediate project, I’ll be working with fellow Community Literacy class members at the Louisville Western Library and offering open tutoring sessions. Here, I am interested in what will bring people through the door: the stories they’ll tell about their writing projects – the artifacts that’ll imbue their writing differently – the ways they’ll articulate writing to themselves. I’ll also be interested in ways that I have to adjust what I think I know about writing as well as ways I can contribute to making a sustainable culture of writing in the Louisville area. I don’t know at all how any of it will take shape but I’m approaching the indeterminacy with new found sense of urgency.
Chris Scheidler is a 1st year PhD student. He’ll get his hair cut before February. The conference thing will get done eventually. And he promises he’ll get his eyes checked as soon as he has time to sit down and make an appointment.