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I take a small break from the Purgatory of frantic essay-writing (Four pages today. Not enough!) to share these insights on the nature of the medievalist, brought to us by Another Damned Medievalist from Blogenspiel:

You Might Be A Medievalist If…

-Your secondary sources are somebody else’s primary sources.

-Everyone else on your conference panel has taken holy orders.

-You have a favorite decree of the Fourth Lateran Council.

-Your particular field of study could be wiped out by a car accident.

-You’ve ever been asked “the truth” about King Arthur.

-You refer to the American Revolution as a “recent development.”

-You add the word “yet” to the statement “I don’t know that language.”

-You specify which level of hell your day has been like.

-You call the renaissance “a dirty lie.”

Great stuff. For some reason, though, Another Damned Medievalist calls this ‘humour’, which I find a little hard to understand. I mean, who doesn’t have a favorite decree of the Fourth Lateran Council?*

* – Mine is number 16.

Last time I was in this situation, I made a promise to myself. “Andreas,” I said to myself. “This is the last time you’ll be in this situation. Never again!” And I swore to high Heaven that this would, indeed, be the very last time I was in that situation.

I refer, of course, to deadlines. More specifically, I refer to the situation that you get a writing assignment and a comfortable deadline in about three months’ time, but instead of actually making good use of all that time, you procrastinate endlessly, pushing the project ahead of you like a dead walrus* until it’s the very last week before deadline. At that point, you find yourself faced with the daunting prospect of having to write 3-4 pages of preferably high-quality prose a day in order to finish the damn thing in time for the deadline – in the evenings after coming home from your day job, of course.

So last time did not in fact turn out to be the last time. And the odds are pretty good that this time won’t be the last time, either. Resignation seems the best approach here. But the question remains why exactly it is that I keep subjecting myself to this torture, when in theory at least it should be fairly easily avoidable through better time management.

LIke most other things, there’s most likely a combination of things involved. For one thing, beginning a writing project takes a lot of energy – authors speak of the ‘fear of the blank paper’ with good reason. And of course, writing is not exactly an effortless activity for me. It’s usually pretty exhausting, sometimes even agonizing, to take those vague and shapeless thoughts I have in my head and put them down on paper in actual words.**

So in the end, it’s probably got something to do with immediate rewards vs. future rewards. The immediate reward of doing something more interesting than writing this stuff simply outweigh the future reward of finishing the project. The problem, of course, is that eventually the punishment of having to work non-stop for a week will probably outweigh those immediate rewards – not to mention the possibility of the even greater punishment of having your editor shout at you for having missed the deadline. That’s not really something you want to experience.***

So is there some conclusion to this? Not really, I guess I guess this is just me procrastinating even further.**** But I would love to hear your thoughts on this interesting psychological mechanism and suggestions for fighting it.

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* – No, I don’t really understand that simile, either. Just smile and nod.

** – Or on Word document, to be exact.

*** – Trust me on this.

**** – The irony of sitting around writing a blog entry to avoid writing something else is not lost on me.

Welcome, gentle and worthy reader, to Vox in Deserto – Musings of a Malpracticing Medievalist, this being a repositorium of short texts* providing both edifying and entertaining commentary on a variety of issues.**

Expect to see here, in particular, discussions relating to medieval scholarship and culture, but also contemporary issues such as politics, religion, culture, personal events, and of course those truly obscure findings and bits of knowledge which are found in any proper blog.

For as the Venerable Bede wrote, should history tell of good men and their good estate, the thoughtful listener is spurred on to imitate the good; should it record the evil ends of wicked men, no less effectually the devout and earnest listener is kindled to eschew what is harmful and perverse, and himself with greater care pursue those things which he has learned to be good and pleasing in the sight of God.***

Let us therefore in this quote discover the kanon by which this blog will be measured.

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* – Or a “blog” in the vernacular.

** – And with a frequency determined by the author’s need for procrastination at any given time.

*** – Bede, Historia Ecclesiatica, praefatio

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