Notes Prior To Birthday Writing Cocoon

How am I spending my birthday weekend thusfar? Let’s see: I was going to get up at 5am but slept on until 645am — which has pretty much been all week. Wake up at 5, check fitbit, see I only have 4-5 hours of sleep, decide I need a bit more. And so forth. But at least last night I slept by 12:15. Past two nights I slept really late. Last night by 3am! I blame deadline stress and feeling uncertain about the monograph. Oddly, my first emotion after I got baffling email was that I was sleepy, lol but not in a depressed way but in a sleepy cat way. I’m really stressed and anxious about the monograph. I think it’s mostly because I have 2-3 projects I want to see published so I really shouldn’t mess up the first one.

I have to say, one of the reasons why I am an article-writing machine this year is I’ve belatedly discovered something — peer-review feedback, and yes, having academic editors, is REALLY helpful to jolt me out of my inertia. Even when they’re annoying peer review feedback. I’ve been stonewalled a few times here. Research grant proposals that don’t get anywhere while mediocre ones get approved, not getting my sabbatical approved when I’m waaaay more published for the assessed publication year than people whose sabbaticals got greenlighted. Kept here until my period to do my postdoc lapsed. And now placed on the backburner until it looks like I’m the lowest achieving member of the team, ridiculed, dominated even by my juniors and put down constantly. Maybe I should be more assertive, I tell myself. Been there, tried that — the moment you show even a smidgen of assertiveness they paint a picture of you as being difficult — they’ve already been spreading negative rumours to serve their own ends because clearly that’s easier than doing the actual work academics should be doing. So, I keep my counsel and save my energy for my intellectual and creative endeavors. I avoid as much as I can, interaction with certain quarters.

What do I do? I pour my intellectual energy into these works. I get feedback. Not all of it is positive but even the negative ones push me to do better. And I know what I want as an academic/researcher. It’s not about those fancy titles. It’s about why I wanted to be a researcher in the first place. We’re all (those of us dedicated to what we do) in some ways looking for a metaphorical Holy Grail in the wasteland. Mine comes when I’ve made a theory make sense, when I’ve pushed myself a bit further, when I understand a bit more about fiction and the mysteries of how stories are made.

I come at it from both ends — as an author/creator, and as a reader. Because that process of writing is an alchemical process that draws from who we are, our influences, our memories and overlapping histories — but it also involves implied readers and actual readers. It involves people we’re writing for, people we’re invoking and legacies we want to leave behind. Is there creativity in academic writing? We’re not supposed to be creative, which is why I get some puritan/purists feedback sometimes about my writing but you know what, some of the best academic works I have read have pristine and delectable prose. I’m still figuring out my academic writing groove here — it needs to be a balance between scholarly and intellectual rigor but still with sentences so sharp it could slice hard cheese and so delectable you want to put a cherry on top of it.

The process of being a deep reader is satisfying in a different way. I love books, I devour books, they’ve saved me my whole life — being a literary scholar allows me to deep dive and I don’t want to be anywhere else, do anything else. So if I’m not allowed intellectual satisfaction and advancement amongst my immediate peers, I must find it elsewhere. It’s not quite my dream of literary academia but that dream seems so far away from where I am now — situations at work I cannot entirely write about here. It feels like rock bottom, honestly. And these works are pulling me up from the well.

I’m going to be working on psychogeography and spatiality this birthday weekend, also allocating 2.5k words a day for the novel, and another 1k for the novella. It feels apt to do so. I’ll also be eating good food. Tempted to go for a massage and pedicure also. I think I deserve some pampering.

Gifts I got myself this year:

  1. My Some Kind of Wonderful Swarovski Crystal Earrings! (okay, I got an assortment of earring studs because I’m now into simple stud earrings after years of dangly earrings being my groove)
  2.  the fitbit Versa
  3.  bluetooth speaker <3
  4. Perfume: I’ve been lusting after L’occitane’s Terra de Lumiere since it came out. Since L’occitane gave me a birthday discount and RM30/- to spend, I got the perfume and am wearing it everyday.
  5. The Faerie Magazine subscription plus the Faerie and Mermaid handbooks.
  6. New swimsuit for a mermaid who was out of the water for nearly a year!
  7. I’m going to count that literary monograph ebook I bought yesterday as a birthday gift too since it was effing RM185.
  8. I probably should count the two tarte (Mermaid and Rainforest) palettes and brushes plus lip glosses as part of the birthday haul but really I got them when I broke my toe. That whole time in ER waiting to be treated, I was thinking “When I get home I am buying that effing Mermaid palette!”

What, no storybooks? To that I say, the weekend is still young and the traditional visiting of certain bookstores on my birthday may yet happen.

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I may be older but I’m not too old to rise. I’m healthier this year than I was last year. I’m lighter (and cuter, if I say so myself) than I was last year. I’m more published than I was last year. I finally got myself out of my academic writing rut. I’m doing things.

I have to remind myself of all these things because I always feel like I haven’t done enough in life, especially on my birthday. Two days to go. Let’s make these two days count.

Woke up with Joni Mitchell in my head so I’m listening to Blue right now.

No more postings here until after my birthday 🙂

Listening to: All I Want — Joni Mitchell