Let me tell you about an observation I've made over the past couple of days. I've been back into my dissertation, and I had one good morning last week. You know the feeling? Time sort of recedes into a distant background and your focus is all about the tick-tock of ideas, coming out in exactly the order you want them. When you finally finish the section you've been working on, you look up and realize two hours have passed and you're already late for something. It's awesome when that happens.
But besides how awesome those runs are, they make me feel fucking good. I feel like I've got real work done. I mean, I feel like I've spent my time on something and actually got something to show for it. It's satisfying.
This week I also put a few applications in the mail. Besides photocopying all the shit I needed for the applications, I also spent a stupid amount of time writing customized cover letters. Then I made sure my department secretary had what she needed to put my letters in the mail. Then I headed to the post office, waited in line, and dropped off my crap. It took pretty close to a full day.
The thing I've noticed is how I felt after getting all those applications in the mail. I'm not talking about feeling the pit in my stomach that comes from thinking about my rapidly diminishing chances of getting anything out the year's efforts besides unqualified failure. Bracket that. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the feeling of having spent a day putting together application envelopes, and getting them in the mail. Those are more concrete products than anything else I ever get from writing or teaching. You can hold those envelopes in your hand. They have weight. They're real. Putting those envelopes together, I should feel like I've done something.
So what did it feel like? Nothing. There's just no sense I've got any work done, no sense I've got anything to show for the day, no satisfaction. Like I spent the day doing nothing.