At the beginning of the summer, I carved out two mornings a week to work on long-term projects. I didn't go to the office on those mornings -- instead, I went to a coffee shop. And it's been a successful strategy. Since mid-May when I started this practice, I've read and taken notes on twenty books and dissertations. On alternate days, I constructed a new course and participated in my students' summer assignments. Last week, at what I thought was my last opportunity to spend a morning at Starbucks, I wrapped up my summer by mapping out the next 18 months of the research project.
It turns out I have one more chance. Classes start on Thursday, and normally the days prior are packed with meetings and preparation. But tomorrow my calendar is pristine. Not a single appointment, not a single meeting besmirches its emptiness. The message seemed clear: I could take one more of those research mornings. The summer gave me a bonus.
I'm actually a little at sea. What should I read? What should I write? Having tied up the loose ends already, I don't know if I should reopen the project or unpack any new cans of worms. But I've always been of the opinion that any given segment of a multi-stage effort isn't ready to be put on the shelf marked "done" unless you've gotten a running start at the next stage. So tomorrow I'd like to construct a draft outline for the first paper I want to write from this research. If I can generate momentum toward the next step, I'll be able to put the project aside until time permits more work on it. Even if my bonus half-day doesn't result in a solid start on a publication, though, I can look back at 2010 as my most productive summer of scholarship ever. And I can look forward to my two mornings a week out of the office in summer 2011.