It’s always a challenge for me to shift gears once the summer starts. After a full year of just-in-time work meeting others’ deadlines (and a few of my own, to be fair), the summer often happens upon me like an infinite horizon of possible projects, the opportunity to put a dent in the “to read” shelves of my bookcases, to write intransitively, and so on. It is the worst thing to hit August 1st only to realize that none of those wonderful plans have been realized.
For years, I’ve used the metaphor of exercise to communicate to my students the importance of steady, regular writing as a key to successful dissertating. The fact of the matter is that no one can just sit down and write a book, any more than one can lose a substantial amount of weight in a single burst of physical activity. It’s a long process that involves much more localized motivation and a certain amount of faith that daily activity will ultimately allow a body to reach its goals. And it’s something that improves with practice and investment.
However, when it comes to my own work during the summer months, too often I’ve been prone to waiting “until the mood hits.” So this year, I’m going to try something a little different. I toyed with Tumblr in my grad class last semester, and while my activity there had faded by mid-semester, I liked the interface well enough to think about adding it to my toolbox. So this summer, I’m setting up a commonplace book on Tumblr as a means of keeping myself to a daily regimen of a certain amount of reading and writing. I’ll be posting quotes there daily, and as I do some writing, perhaps some excerpts from that, or at least links to blog posts.
I’m calling it RhetBit, both for the pun on FitBit (as a means of quantifying and keeping track of my intellectual activity) and because its purpose is really just to aggregate bits of what I’m reading and thinking about each day this summer. I don’t expect that it will add up to some coherent map of my brain, but who knows? At the least, it’ll give me a place to store quotes and bibliography entries for later use.