So what have you been doing for the past month?
It’s been nearly five weeks since my last post and I’ve spent that time closing on, painting, and then moving into a townhouse in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. With lots of help from family and friends, nearly every wall has been repainted, new rugs have been installed, and the “must haves” have been put in place (including my massive desk, Star Wars posters, and a print of a painting that includes my elementary school from Aldan, PA in the background).
When I accepted my new position with the English Department at Fitchburg State University, I knew that I was in for a lot of upheaval, especially when I decided that I would make the leap and become a homeowner rather than renting a place.
New job, new state, and new home.
It’s been a lot and for someone like me who finds comfort in routine and familiarity, I’m definitely ready to be done with all of it.
But the transition back to that routine hasn’t been anywhere near as simple as I expected. And I realized that’s mostly because of the vastly different types of mindsets involved between the “move” mind and the “writing” brain.
The “move” mind required short-term, immediate decision-making involved in setting up a house, unpacking belongings, and placing furniture. I spent hours one day, for example, dashing between rooms, up and down stairs, answering questions and making decisions as my awesome family members were tackling projects like unpacking my kitchenware, painting the main bathroom, and assembling, then placing, the new cabinets in my amazingly large new home office.
The “writing” brain, on the other hand, is also the mindset I need for syllabus planning and my research (including the paper I’m going to be presenting at LoneStarCon 3 at the end of the month). Before the move preparation, this was my default mindset and that was actually problematic as I tried to be so strategic when I packed that I got in my own way at times.
But once I was (mostly) settled, and my family returned to their own homes, it took me nearly a full week to re-set my brain. I quickly realized that it was going to take a deliberate effort to make the switch and that I had taken for granted the time and attention I typically have for such thinking. I am lucky that I’m able to control a great deal of my time and environment to create and maintain (even nurture) that reflective, writing mindset.
Throughout this process, I have been reminded of Virginia’s Woolf’s classic essay A Room of One’s Own, which I first read many, many years ago in college. Now that I have a great space to call my own, I also have the additional obstacle known as “the joys of home ownership” to get in the way of achieving the mental and physical space I need to write. For example, tasks like waiting hours for a plumber to arrive and changing addresses online do not lend themselves to recapturing the sustained attention required for longer-term projects (even for relatively short pieces like this blog post).
I’m still considering how to incorporate this experience into my teaching and writing but one of the great advantages of my job is the synergies among my teaching, writing, and thinking. As my students in First-Year Writing at Fitchburg State this fall are making a huge transition, I will still be adapting to my own and I definitely plan to be open about my own struggles setting up my writing space, and recapturing my writing mind.