On tangentials (& pro-crastination)

One of my worse – or better, depending on your viewpoint – features is my tendency to run off on tangents. I’m not sure why this happens, unless it’s just that I find following paths to see where they end more interesting than continuing along a set course to a defined destination. This is, in any case, a highly indulgent habit, and one which I will indubitably have to shed once I get my degree and need to find a real (academic) job.

Case in point: a colleague asked me what I thought about diplomatic letterbooks (ie. copybooks of diplomatic correspondence): why are these made?

Asking me anything can result in Pratchettian philosopher-length response times, and my answer duly expanded into a small-scale investigation into letterbooks, including a comparison of the correspondence of Sir Charles Cornwallis (English ambassador in Madrid, 1605-1610) and Sir Robert Cecil as seen in original letters and letterbooks found in no less than five archives, and several collections within most of them..

I think the results are fairly interesting, and point to much work that could be done on this front. (For one thing, perhaps Henry Woudhuysen’s claim that we still know next to nothing about Early Modern English letter-writing practices isn’t that far off the truth, after all.) But this took at least a day of my time, and frankly I can’t afford to do this kind of thing any more. Yet ultimately I can’t be overly upset with my behaviour, for I tend to think of procrastination as definitely containing the pro-element, meaning that it is WORK just as whatever-you-should-be-doing-instead is work. And thus the results of procrastinatory activities are bits of research in their own right.

This is all fine & dandy, but yeah. Prioritization. Not one of my strengths.

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