That's what it feels like when you miss one class to write a paper for another. (It feels a little more ironic when the same professor teaches both.)
This whole writing-a-paper-in-law-school thing has been extremely enlightening. And when I say paper here, I mean an actual academic paper, on a topic I pick and filled with my own ideas about the subject, rather than something like what gets assigned in Legal Writing (a memo or a brief, where you're handed the issue and what you come up with is the best way to spin the legal authority you dredge up on your subject, not any "new" insights on the matter. I mean, writing memos and briefs is creative, and it definitely requires analysis and insight and so on, but if all the case law out there says that 40-year-old married women with cats do not constitute a suspect class for hiring purposes, you're going to have a reeeeeeeeeeeeeallly hard time trying to argue that they should be, and will probably have to exercise your creativity in coming up with a different angle from which to advocate for your client. There are more constrictions; your exercise your creativity in trying to figure out how to deal with them. Whereas in an academic legal paper, you're free to write all about how bogus the case law is and why such women really SHOULD be a suspect class. I mean, you'd sound like an idiot making THAT particular argument, but you have more freedom to do so than you would in a brief).
See, I figured that I would be all over the academic paper thing. I mean, it's what I've done for the last umpteen years of my life, right? I know how to handle academic papers!
But I forgot that I also studied my previous subject for those umpteen years. I've mentioned here before how established skills deteriorate when you have to apply them to a new context (kind of like how college students might end up doing really well in Intro to Comp but when they have to write for a new class in a new field, they forget how to do things they'd been doing just fine in the familiar context). Struggling with this seminar paper, I'm brought right back to my early days in grad school, writing final papers for seminars when I was still taking classes in my Ph.D. program. There's a familiar panicky feeling of wanting to sit down and write, knowing you have a paper to do, but simply not having enough stuff in your head yet to come up with something substantial. And while the solution is simply to read stuff, learn more, put more stuff in your head so that you can start making connections and seeing what's going on, that panicky feeling makes it hard to focus on the material you really need to address. I look at the stack of cases and law review articles I could/should be reading for this paper, think, "I can't POSSIBLY get through all that," and waste a lot of time worrying when I should just be reading and thinking and then, only then, writing.
It's all part of learning new stuff, I realize that. I just really expected that I wouldn't have these problems any more. I completely forgot how much medieval stuff I managed to get in my head, and how much that facilitated churning out pages when need be. I've kind of mentally treated this seminar paper like a conference paper, which is off for two reasons: first, it's longer than a conference paper, and second, I just don't have the knowledge to dash it off the way I was able to do with conference papers, by the time I left academia.
On the bright side, though, one of the things that was also panicking me about this paper was feeling like I needed to have years of primary research under my belt before I could say anything useful about anything. It finally dawned on me: this paper isn't intended to be the masterful culmination of hugely sustained research into primary sources. It's a thought exercise. I need material about which to think (and seem to have managed to formulate a topic that requires more than some, of course), but the point is NOT to accumulate information, not in the way that it sometimes is in historical research. The point is to think of something and to communicate it. It was funny to realize how much historical argument is accomplished by accretion: by piling piece of evidence upon piece of evidence. You really don't do that in the same way in legal writing. Tis rather odd for me.
Okay. Back to the paper I'm missing class to work on.