Look at that massive stack of books with your little pink notebook on the top, open like the bud of a daisy and crawling with notes. Even those huge volumes by writers with high-brow names like Humphrey and Sacheverell did not grasp everything, nor succeed in having the last word on the subject.
Yes, even the most pompous, satisfyingly-thick, black-bound biographies have gaps in their scholarship and may fade into dust-gathering anachronisms. “Of the making of many books, there is no end,” after all.
But isn’t that comforting, in a way? And wonderfully liberating? If those authors you so admire could not write everything in 500 pages, why do you feel the pressure to do so in 20? Or 30? Even 60?
No, do not worry about saying everything. After all, your paper is only a small daisy in a vast forest of former trees, books upon books upon books that you can traverse by footnote but never fully explore.
But isn’t that exciting? After all, forests need flowers too, and you will never run out of trails to investigate, paths to forge.
So write what you can. Tend to your small bit of knowledge and watch it grow up among the leaves of books and the dust of authors past.
What should I be doing? Studying for my 20th Century Music History midterm.
What am I doing? Learning to write rondel poetry.
But, if I use the poetry (below) as a way to discuss the artistic philosophies in this class, does it count as studying?
“A Rondel to Order in Art”
It is ‘oft thought that to create
we must rebel against all rules
that only traditional fools
would think those the artist’s first mate,
That to follow them is to fate
ourselves to repeating the schools
and that if we are to create
we must forsake all former rules,
But order we must not equate
to primitive, unneeded, cruel
for it indeed is proved a tool;
to use, not recapitulate,
and in adapting, to create.
“I can’t, I have to study… I’m sorry.” Sorrowfully, I put the book back onto the library shelf. With auditions and exams looming, I have been forcing myself to read textbooks and ignore the call of novels, but last week this discipline became my undoing.
While practicing my solo for a choir audition, my voice stopped. Completely. It just would not work. When freaking out to my director, who is familiar with my book addiction, he asked me what I was reading at the moment.
“Nothing,” I admitted. He then prescribed a novel, reminding me that I cannot abandon all leisure time and expect to be relaxed enough to sing. Feeling that I could justify reading since it was ordered by a teacher, I visited the library and checked out the first book recommended to me, a new piece of brain candy called Legend. (I’ll review when I finish.)
It worked. I took this new book on a walk around the park and then settled down with some tea. My anxiety lifted and, as weird as it sounds, I could sing again!
So basically, I guess my point is that giving up all pleasure reading (or any leisure activity) for studying (or work in general) can end up being as bad as sacrificing all work for all fun. My addiction to novels was not actually hindering my progress, but the “withdrawals” certainly did. Besides, isn’t it just nicer to look forward to reading a story at the end of the day rather than a textbook?