I've been trying to figure out why I've handled this so badly (aside from the standard overworked and overtired) and I suspect it has a lot to do with my own insecurities about my academic writing. I'm really not a literary critic, however I would like to think that my Ph.D. had prepared me to be one -- I've never published any real critical work, and everything I try to write in that vein sounds obvious and undergraduate. And my job situation at UIC is complex -- a spousal hire, and the department has made clear that while they're very happy to have me continue as a clinical professor in creative writing, teaching undergrad lit, even, that they wouldn't be interested in me for a tenure-track position unless I also had significant critical work.
UIC is unusual in this regard -- they want their creative writing professors to also be strong lit. scholars, which is unfortunate for me. I am trying to come to terms with it, and everyone in my department has been really nice about it, but honestly, my weird status (I'm the only clinical professor in my department) still bothers me. Not enough to go seek a tenure-track job elsewhere, not yet, because it's really a wonderful environment for me in a lot of other ways. The people are smart and kind and enthusiastic about my writing and supportive. The schedule is good for writing. It's a good place for me. But still.
Every time I sat down to work on this project, I kind of freaked out. I felt totally unprepared to handle it. And so I went and did something else.
I may publish something critical someday, although I sort of doubt it. My time is so impossibly tight these days, and will be for the next four years at least, until both children are in school and more self-sufficient. What I really want to spend what time and energy I have on is the creative writing -- that's what I obsess over, what I dream about. I should have realized long ago that given limited time, I would always end up choosing creative writing over critical, and accepted the consequences of that career-wise. I just wish I hadn't dragged my colleague into my mess.
She's found other folks interested in co-authoring with her, so I'm hopeful that she'll end up writing a brilliant book with them, and that my failing the last four months won't have any long-term consequences for her. But I feel awful that I cost her months of lost time, plus stress and worry.
Ugh. Major grown-up fail.