Notes From The Wasteland No. 48 ‘Do You Like Commas and Colons?’

I spent three years writing a doctoral dissertation and used to love the hours I spent fussing over commas and colons. I could while away a whole afternoon formatting a single footnote and then be satisfied that this was all I had done for the day.

I worked in an enormous university library somewhere in the south east of England – it was the size of a decent shopping centre  – and had a small perch/nest (room) overlooking a large reading room. With the exception of the occasional undergraduate who was happier talking than actually reading, the sense of silence was awe-inspiring.

I treated my doctorate like a job and wrote between 9 and 12 everyday Monday to Friday. Then I would stop for lunch.

After lunch I would return to my perch and not write.

I would do anything else I felt was necessary dissertation-wise, but I avoided writing anything new.

Once I left the library for the day it was as if my doctorate didn’t exist. I was lucky to be able to forget all about it and not lay awake at night worrying whether I would finish it or not.

The next morning I would be on the bus at 8am and spend the hour it took to get to my perch reading two newspapers.

I didn’t always feel like writing but I did always feel like sitting in my perch.

I’m no longer sitting in that library but I do still eat my lunch at 12 Monday to Friday.