The end is the beginning

I wrote a message to my kid’s educator this morning dating it August, 29th. Only to discover half an hour later that today is the 30th – 30th as in only one day left and this month is over. calendrier


I have lived in a world where being in August and working on my book were equivalent and, as I painfully realized this morning, evolving in some kind of  temporal infinitude. As it turns out, time is finite, and it passes. Some might even be tempted to say that it flies (I know people who pretend it is so. I for myself believe in time passing on one’s life not such much like a feather as like some kind of pressing iron).

So one more day, I thought, and the day-to-day will be back. No more “in August I work on my book”. I mentally prepared Monday’s to-do list: talk 1 in September, papers 1 and 2 in September too (both almost from scratch), 2 volumes to finish copy-editing in October, 3 talks to give in November. It feels like Christmas is the day after tomorrow or so.

I didn’t write 100 pages this month. I read over 1000 of them and wrote something like, let’s be honest, 10 to 15. But I have not changed the disposition of the parts and chapters over the past three weeks (which I have been doing literally every other day when I tried working on it before) and I have even been able to write a one-page abstract of the whole project. I have my piles of books organized after the chapter they will help me write. I want to have part one finished in the spring. I have a plan. I suspect that said plan will be good to throw away in two months for whatever reason. But hey, that’s what plans are for, right? Not being followed. So, final statement: situation OK, fulfills expectations. The most important thing – knowing where to begin when I have time to work on it – is now plain clear and will stay so for me to survive winter. The end is a beginning. What do I want more?

There is one thing I have been surprised by this month. Over the past 6-7 years, not a term went by that I did not have the feeling to have learned something. It is essential for me, be it only professionally. This continuous learning is precisely what keeps me moving on and somehow regenerates my energy. And at no point in the last year have I had the feeling that I learned less than before, that I was not evolving towards some questions and answers getting clearer and clearer. But this month, while reading huge amounts of literature on things I had been implementing and thinking about in an unformalized way for 2-3 years, I felt like I was beginning to learn again. It probably has to do with the fact that I have learned from experience for 3 years and now yearn to formalize and systematize this empirical insight. But it was uncomfortable to suddenly realize that I could learn much more, much faster, if only I had time to read. You can’t do everything, that is for sure. Let’s try to get the best out of it, at the very least…

Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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