We have a saying in the program:
Plan, but don’t plan the outcome.
This is a great saying for me. It helps me manage my expectations of life; as in, I cannot control other people, places, and things. I can only control my attitude and how I respond to things. Like disappointment, or other things in life beyond my control.
This past week, I worked out a very detailed travel/research plan for my next trip down to Florida. I had decided to fly down instead of drive — which worked better from a budget and staffing standpoint. I had let some of my contacts in Florida know that this was coming together, and that I still awaited a final OK on the date of departure, but paperwork was submitted weeks ago, permissions sought weeks ago. Everything looked good from here.
I was pretty proud of myself for working up a detailed plan that wasn’t impossible from a time-management standpoint, and, that fell well within my budget. It took literally the entire week to iron out the details, find forms, and so forth, but in the end, I had a great plan, complete with a backup research strategy in the event that my main archive source, the Escambia County Courthouse Archive, happened to close again (which is what happened last time), or, if I needed some flexibility with archive office hours, and so forth.
…yesterday (yes, on Saturday), I find out that my funding for this project has been reduced. Significantly.
Not eliminated, thank God, but still, reduced enough that there’s not much there for anything big, like the follow-up research trip. Not that it was costly in the first place, but still, the travel’s been cut.
I suppose that also explains why I hadn’t been able to get final approval for the trip date I requested in September (what I had been waiting on). Now I know why.
Of course, I was told, I can always go on my own, which I might do anyway. I can have the time off without any problem, but it won’t be compensated. I was told that the project has value and merit; my research contributions are appreciated and, I was reminded, that the plug has not been pulled on the project. Everyone likes the project; it is just that, well, it isn’t considered a priority.
Also, I was told, it would help if I came up with a finished chapter or two, and that I can fill in missing information later. Right?
This is only a delay, not defeat. I can count myself lucky my project is still alive.
Of course, I’m going to continue onward. I’m not stopping; I’m two-years-plus invested in this project, and you know, I’ve seen this before in academia. This happens all the time. I just hate that it happened to me at this moment.
Sometimes a delay is actually a gift — taking a step back and finding another approach is something I’ve had to do all throughout this project. Delays have been beneficial in that I’ve found new — better — information sources by simply going back over the original questions I’d ask. Or, going back to check an archive to see if there have been updates (and there had been).
Maybe getting a chapter or two drafted — drafted, not final form — is a good idea. That’s what publishers want to see of works-in-progress.
I know folks around here who are published, right in my neighborhood, who have told me:
You just sit down, and do it. You write. You get it done one page at a time. One day at a time.
You know, this delay may be the thing that gets my ass into writing gear. I do have a lot of information. I do have enough that I can get a few chapters together. This will take time, but hey, it looks like that’s what I have now.
So, one door closes, another opens elsewhere. Or, maybe, this is a case of not needing to open certain doors in the first place.
I’m still not finished with Florida, though. That will come later, I’m certain. Meanwhile: I’m going to step back for a day or so, then come back and think creatively about the next step in the research, as in, identify where I have information holes, if they are significant for now, then reassess how to go about getting information.