For about one hour this morning, I was in a state of inspired productivity. I came up with an intro for a paper that I’ll be presenting in March; I had an idea for a lecture that I’ve been struggling to conceptualize; and I think I figured out how to restructure an article that I’ve been editing. I was riding high. And then I looked up the name of this fellow who I had been told might be working on something similar to my dissertation. Similar? Try exactly the same. This guy’s got an article coming out, and he’s been nice enough to post it on-line; reading it, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. Shit, he even started his piece with a quotation that I used in my dissertation prospectus. What the fuck? I actually sobbed a little. Crushing.
Fortunately, my adviser’s quite good at talking people down from their ledges. He reassured me that I have nothing to worry about. My topic is big enough for the both of us, me and this other guy, and probably more people, too. He also reminded me that I am an environmental historian, and noted that this other guy is a diplomatic historian, so it’s not exactly the same thing; in fact, these are very different approaches. And this might help when I go to look for a job, because this other fellow’s book (he’s a professor at Harvard) will be out five-six years before mine, so I’ll have a literature to directly engage. All it really means is (a) I gotta get my ass moving on this and (b) I need to make sure to clearly define my environmental history approach to the whole thing.
Still, I’m a bit deflated. It looked like I was going to kick some serious ass today–on a Friday, no less!–but now, not so much. Instead, it may turn into a day of administrative work and video gaming.