I have finally finished the first section of the comps list. This marks the end of the first “question” in theory if not practice. Most of my work crosses the subdivision created to make the list make more sense. Before I start to work on the rest (I am almost finished with the background section on the American Studies portion at the moment) I wanted to share some of the things I have learned about this type of work and how I manage to stay sane throughout the attempts to synthesize everything in print.
Scheduling. This seems obvious and impossible. It isn’t so much of “I must read 173 pages every 2 hours in order to finish this” as much as it is setting aside chunks of time to work on the sources, but also (and sometimes more importantly) having chunks of time where you don’t. Through the first few weeks I would use the weekends to catchup on things I missed and would marathon through 2 or 3 books each day on Saturday and Sunday. While this allowed me to get our regular blog posts and keep ahead of where I thought I should be it became a doldrum of monotony after two weeks. After I finished the first section I revamped the schedule and took another look at the list.
First thing I did was stop marathoning the weekends. I started to treat Saturday and Sunday like the rest of the days of the week (in relation to prepping for comps anyway). This means I get up at the same time but instead of going to work I take care of things around the house until the time I would be off anyway. Then I fix something to eat, watch my dinner episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and set off to reading. This was less monotonous but wasn’t very different from the previous, and it wasn’t getting me any farther ahead on the readings.
I once was a boilermaker. I worked shutdowns in industrial maintenance. This means 7/12s (seven days a week, 12 hours each day) until the shutdown or turnaround was over. These typically lasted several weeks and then we would have time off until the next one. Turns out several weeks of the same thing is about all you can handle, especially when it is reading a normal size book a day (I saw “normal” to mean abound 350 pages which is about what I can digest in a day’s reading). So I took another look at the list and pulled out the calendar.
By putting a book on the calendar and doubling for some of these anthology pieces (and the Walt Whitman biography beast) and by getting up an hour earlier, I manage to free a full day on the weekend to do nothing related to comps. That probably isn’t entirely true as almost everything I end up doing finds its way into my work. But, hey, a day off! It also serves as a buffer in case something comes up that would interfere with our regularly schedule program. In the most recent case it was attending the opening of our Picturing Indian Territory exhibit at the art museum.
With the current schedule running, I am actually at the time of writing this, a day and book ahead, I will read the final book on my list a few days after Christmas. That is if I continue to treat the days of break as workdays. The days for blogging have been built in as well. This one was supposed to be tomorrow and the next a couple days later, but I think I can get two out this weekend (don’t look for that to become a common occurrence anytime soon).
What do I do on the days I am not reading? I spend it painting and pastelling random bits of pop culture from 80s cartoons. At least that is what the last one consisted of. It happened that the end of the first section and the second time I had a full day off hit together so I finished a prepared board and canvas in the morning and took a more ambitious project after lunch. In addition to arting it up, I have been utilizing my obsolete iPhone to try capture a time-lapse of the mess. Below are the time lapse creations of the fruits of a day off when I could have read at least two books:
The first was a prepared board for pastels for Egon talking to the King Troll from the episode Troll Bridge
As you can see the capturing system (and the art) is far from a professional affair. But I also had a small canvas for Orko, to celebrate the recent beginning of a 6 issue DC comics crossover of He-Man and the Thundercats.
The great thing about painting bits of cartoons from 30 years ago is they mainly use primary colors. This is extremely helpful for someone who is colorblind. In fact, since the pastels don’t have labels, I don’t do them unless my wife is here to double check skin tones or accessory colors. I suppose one day I will do something random as I see them or match them to what I see, but currently I would like them to be “right”
To that end, this one has been the most ambitious projects as far as size and content. I have done a couple ninja turtle acrylics before of Rocksteady and Bebop from the cartoons and then a panel from the new comics, but never have I situated them into actual art. It was actually a lot of fun, and I was surprised there there wasn’t a version of NightHawks with turtles somewhere on the internet. There isn’t one of the Ghostbusters (or the Real Ghostbusters) either so I might have to give that one a try some time.
This may seem like a waste of time, and I go back and forth on whether it is or not, but I do know that this small break in plowing through an enormous reading list has severed to make the workweek more tolerable. If you have made it this far and are wondering why you feel burned out over your work, you might try adjusting some things to give you a break. It doesn’t have to be painting, it could be bike riding, hiking, swimming, snow skiing, practicing the japanese noseflute, video games, something, anything, or even nothing. Comps (or generals) is one of those things that isn’t actually testing you for a “grade” in the sense that you have to remember a bunch of facts in an order in order to regurgitate them back for your professor. You are being “tested” in order to prove that you are suited and situated firmly enough into your discipline not to embarrass yourself in conversation with other people in your discipline. More than a few people will tell you that during preparations for comps “you will never know more about your field than you do now.” I know the sentiment and I am glad they share, but at the same time that isn’t really comforting to me.
The next scenic turnout may be art, or something else entirely. It might be a conglomeration of the things done on the days off between now and when I finish the next section, or something in the middle that think is more clever than it probably is.