On getting unstuck
October usually energizes me. Cooler temperatures, that slanting light, the sense of doors opening between the spirit world and ours—I have come to rely on this season to bring me a sense of hidden possibilities, other ways of being. But this fall I’ve felt stuck, uncertain about how to move forward and which way to go.
The world, or my little corner of it, feels stuck too. It’s late October and the mosquitoes refuse to die; the weather refuses to get cold enough to kill them off. I keep discovering more boxes of my late mother’s stuff, including a multi-generational trove of family photos. When will it end?
Say hi to one of my ancestors, who might or might not be the same child who died of diphtheria at the age of 11 in the first decade of the last century. Haunting, no? Those eyes follow you around the room.
I’ll likely write more about the photo organizing at some point, but first I need to get unstuck. I spent so much of the last few years buried in clutter, writing about clutter, promoting my book about clutter. (Did I mention there’s a paperback edition coming out in January 2022 with fewer typos and a brand-new afterword?)
Honestly, I thought/hoped I would be well into my next book project(s) by now. Pro tip: Self-flagellation doesn’t do much for productivity. I have to trust that I’ll figure out the next thing in good time. Then again, time’s a-wasting, as they say.
I did manage this summer to get back in the game and write a review-essay of John B. Thompson’s Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing for the LARB. The assignment gave me a chance to think about all the changes I’ve seen and been part of during my career as well as to assess Thompson’s latest substantial contribution to the ethnography of publishing.
Mostly, though, this year has felt like one long look back—at my own first book, at family history, at what’s been lost and what I still need to let go. That includes the fear of moving on to new work. Time to get unstuck and let the spirits move.
Happy Halloween, and thanks for reading.