On 15 Months of Clock-Ticking, and Writing

I would not have thought that 15 months before the group’s funding ends would feel as if a nuclear bomb was about to explode. It is time to wrap things up. The doctoral positions end in November ’14, the post-doctoral one in March ’15, mine in June ’15, and we still have 3 monographs due.

But the clock is not ticking because we have to write these books. The clock is ticking because while we have to concentrate on writing them, we also have to worry about what will come after our funding is over. The deadlines to get funding in 15 months are in the weeks ahead – one stipend here, one bursary there, and a fat ERC grant application for me. The work and time invested in these applications (and maybe even worse: the time and energy that feed the worry about what will come next) makes it really hard to concentrate on the actual scholarly work. The contradiction of not being able to do research because you have to find the money to maybe end up doing it (but then you have to look out for your next funding) is not new; in Germany, everyone who doesn’t have a professorship suffers from it. Comparatively, we have been spared, because 5 years of funding in a row is a whole lot of time for post-docs in Germany. But it remains painful when the end approaches.

It is a new challenge for me in at least two regards. The first one is the digital edition. Which goals can I realistically have for myself and for the group until the end of the funding period? Will I finally find a decent long-time archiving solution? This question has so much to do with the “after” (after my actual funding) that I have not been able to answer it, although it should, in all logic, not depend on the “after” –

And it is a challenge for me as a boss. Organizing the team when there is some time buffer is comparatively comfortable. There is always a good reason why something gets delayed – because something else was more important at the time, because we moved around a topic before reaching the target, because I had to concentrate on something else and lost that focus for a couple of weeks. But when it comes down to final deliverables, all equally burning and all with zero time buffer to make mistakes and take detours, things become more complicated. The boss has to tighten all of the strings and hold to them firmly. No time for distraction in the 15 months ahead. I will give my best not to end thoroughly Stalin-esque in the last months.

Needless to say, what comes last is always, inevitably, my own monograph. Although I have managed to break it down to something that is actually feasible (thanks to my mentor’s help) and although I have relatively good conditions because my husband has a sabbatical until October, it turns out that writing an ERC application, preparing for an interview, encouraging PhD candidates who need to write, accepting to review this and that because it matters to me, trying to finish the few papers still in the pipeline, working on wrapping up coherently the digital edition with the money there is left, occasionally giving talks, organizing one more, just one, workshop, and, well, picking up my kids at school – leaves little room for writing.

Funny paradox, considering that in all the years, I have never lost track of the question I have always asked myself: What is text?

Because, really, there is nothing as awesome as writing is.


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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