1. Micah the Graduate Student decided that the best time to write his dissertation was later. The second best time was eventually. After all, there were still so many books that he needed to pretend that he had read. How could anyone take him seriously if he hadn’t familiarized himself with all of that stuff? He was living a life of the mind, and nothing could be finer. The digital clock on the nightstand that occupied roughly a quarter of the living space in his dirty rathole of an apartment blinked 12:00. Not that it mattered to a scholar like him, because the best time to take a nap was always.
2. Emily Twiggs wasn’t a good writer or even very smart, but she did well in graduate school because she plugged away at her work. Her work, as near as anybody could tell, consisted of transforming thousands of primary sources into an enormous database. Instead of finishing her dissertation, which she dreaded because it required at least a modicum of creativity, she coded one item after another. Although it was labor-intensive and tedious, it kept an uncertain future at bay.
3. Dr. Theodore “Ted” Tunnell produced his fourth monograph, a characteristically well-written and well-researched effort. The book was a thoughtful contribution to the work being done by other scholars in the discipline, so of course only a handful of people read it and most of them dismissed it outright. Tunnell continued to teach an overload of classes of each semester and was eventually forgotten.
4. The eminent professor Ruggleteapot released his second magnum opus, which was more or less a rehash of his earlier, overrated scholarship. He was feted by reviewers in the highbrow press. None of them understood a word of what he had written and at least one person somehow managed to review the book before it was actually published. Ruggleteapot had a stentorian voice and dressed in natty tweeds, so everyone took him seriously.
5. John Climacus MD had stopped writing academic articles for serious psychology journals a long time ago. The real money was in writing empty feel-good books about factitious problems like low self-esteem. Once he figured out that the key to being happy was thinking happy, he published these findings and became a very rich man.