When you live in a casino town, as I do, you start to see slot machines everywhere. They are actually everywhere here--at the airport to greet you when you touch down, at the grocery store, outside the pharmacy where you fill your prescriptions and the gas stations where you stop to fill up. They have names like Hex Breaker and Kitty Glitter. I kid you not. Kitty. Glitter.
But I've also started to see how the logic of the slot machine pervades, especially in our social media moment.
The last essay I posted here was about people who hated me. This one is about people who "like" me.
When I catch myself on Facebook and Twitter and am truly mindful about what's happening, it's not always pretty. I can sometimes see how, when the platform tells me how many people see and "like" my work, I become grasping, covetous, greedy for approval. It's not my favorite self. And it does something weird to the work in question.
And I don't think it's writers alone who face this. Yoga friends who also must self-promote in order to make a living, family members living far away who share photos, political organizers working on a movement. We are all subject to an environment in which we put forward the best that we make, do, and love in a landscape designed to devalue the best that we make, do, and love.
I admit that I am particularly susceptible to the slot machine nature of social media when I am tired (and with a 6 month old, that's all the time these days).
Here's how it goes:
When I'm at my worst, I am excellent evidence that operant conditioning works. I am Skinner's rat. Sometimes FB rewards me, sometimes it doesn't, so on I click, refreshing the screen again and again.
But more disturbing than being reminded of what I share with a bunch of mid-century rats and pigeons (where is my reward, Dr. Skinner!?), the rewarding of the habits I love makes the love of the habit a little less.
As much as I love writing (insert your own creative practice here) and will continue despite bullies and haters, it's also the case that I love writing and will continue despite any supporters or likers. The work has to be enough to sustain me. And usually it does. It's just that those little blue thumbs up can get very seductive.
Moreover, the cycle can become very time consuming. Like those dollars fed into the machine, these are minutes I cannot get back. And this is not how I wish to spend my life's currency.
Thankfully, when I find myself getting a little off track, there are a number of wise creators/artists/teachers/yogis to whom I can turn for a better example.
Here are the three wise women helping me now:
Choreographer/Dancer Twyla Tharp (from The Creative Habit):
my dear former classmate, Teacher/administrator/scholar Amanda Hagood:
Though Twyla (I imagine we are friends) and Amanda are talking about haters and Elizabeth Gilbert is talking about lovers and hatera, they are all people who wisely value their work's importance over any reaction to it. That is, they dance, write, and teach whether they are being praised or damned because dancing, writing, and teaching are more important than the kudos or the damnation. This is a lovely way of taking our petty ego--so fragile, that one--out of the equation and focusing on the more important business at hand. At the end of the day, my feelings about other people's feelings about my work will pass, what remains is the work itself.
Also, here's a slightly less high minded, but nonetheless effective tech strategy I've been using, thanks to my friend Nicole. It's called self-control (https://selfcontrolapp.com/) and you can use it to turn off the websites that are your version of the addicting slot machine for a set amount of time. On a practical side, I'm finding this particularly useful for getting writing done. On a psychological side, I really like turning it on when I post new writing so that I cannot indulge in the vicious slot machine cycle described above. Maybe tech will help me transcend my pigeon self after all. Though the Kitty Glitter is so sparkly...
(With apologies to Jon Ronson)
In the fall of 2003, Thursdays meant tears. Having left the safety of a small state school for an elite PhD program, I knew I was not prepared. Worse, I thought other people knew it too. I had come in off of the wait list, the only student in my small class that particular year to do so. On Thursdays, I had two seminars back-to-back, during which I wrote names and words to look up later in tiny print in the corners of my notebooks. I had not heard of Foucault or Habermas; I did not know my ontology from my epistemology; and I did not know what a paradigm was, let alone what it would mean to shift one. On Thursdays, after a full day of recording all I did not know, I would call home and weep to my parents that everyone knew "I was the stupidest one." When my parents reassured that I was not, I'd use logic against them: "it has to be someone, and there's only six of us, so..." In other words, this is a boring story of a first semester at graduate school. Years later, I have a term with which to describe the insecurity that had me locked away in my shared apartment bathroom once a week sobbing like a baby. Mine was a classic case of impostor syndrome: I knew I did not belong and was sure that others were having this knowledge confirmed through each interaction with me. Soon, I would be found out as a dummy and asked to leave.
Now, more than a decade later, I rarely worry about this. Sometimes I'm uncertain when undertaking a new project or class. Sometimes I still do not know the name or work of a particular theorist and feel a bit shy about this. But largely, I no longer worry that I'm about to be uncovered as a fraud and told to pack my things and get out.
But then, on June 1st, 2016, as I was sitting blithely by the side of a pool, it happened. Names were named, my stupidity exposed, and I was revealed for the faker I am.
A few months ago, in an effort to communicate my scholarship more broadly and to join the 21st century a bit more robustly, I joined Twitter. I use the platform in a boring, banal way: "It's Marilyn Monroe's Birthday!," "Apply to our MFA program;" "Yay, silent movies." I don't understand the more complex features or how to do anything very tricky. Basically, what my father is to Facebook, I am to Twitter.
When I opened my phone this particular afternoon to see what there was to see, I discovered that someone had mentioned my name. Investigating further, I saw that in the particular tweet that mentioned my name, the author had written “an oddity of academe to be sure.” Confused about what this meant, I followed the conversation upstream to its source.
The initial post had come from an account that, in an effort not to promote bad behavior, I’ll call actual_peerreview.* The tweet included a photograph of the abstract for an article I had written with this caption: "When you're not all too bright but the salary’s better in academia than Starbucks." Oh no. This was not good. I looked down at the tweets that followed and they were in a similar vein, taking a few unpleasant detours along the way, including a potshot at my state school alma mater, and a repost of a photograph from my faculty website and corresponding commentary.
This, in short, was the blow I had been waiting for as I cringed my way through the first semesters of graduate school. I had forgotten to worry about it during my professional life, but now actual__peerreview had brought my stupidity forth for all the world to see. The twitterverse had announced its disdain: “you’re a fraud! We hate you! Go away!”
I felt ashamed as I sat next to my parents who were chatting away; they were thrilled to be in town visiting my new baby. I did not want them to know this was happening to me; I also realized I was deeply afraid that colleagues would see this, or, worse, were participating. It was shocking how quickly the posts returned me to that primal adolescent fear that everyone had joined together to laugh at me. To come up shamed on social media is a bit like floating along through the halls of high school and suddenly realizing someone you thought was your friend has started a pregnancy rumor about you—it's as much bewildering as it is painful.
After the initial shock, I considered the unlikeliness that my colleagues were in a secret cabal with a vendetta against me or the article, a piece about Virtual 2Pac that appeared in a feminist film studies journal. Although the essay makes some claims that might be considered political (about the commodification of certain versions of black masculinity), it's not throwing polemical bombs. And, typically, I'm a scholar who works on modernist literature and silent film, not particularly hot button topics. I'm proud of the work I do and I think my texts are worth thinking about, but I also know that I'm not setting the world on fire. As I thought more and poked around on the discussion thread, trying to figure out who these people were, I realized that I did not know them, or they me. As I said, I'm new to Twitter and there's plenty I may be getting wrong—also, in an act of astounding courage, the account actual__peerreview appears to have "muted" my account before tweeting, a nice term in this context—what I can see is that this account posts abstracts from the humanities or social sciences each day, placing the pieces and authors in the internet’s stockades for their public shaming. The account has received a bit more attention lately for being one of the places where Dr. Mark Carey’s “feminist glaciology” article was discussed.
I have not been at the center of a media frenzy in the way Carey has, and my article is not nearly the kind of sexy fodder for such discussions as his has become, but I will nonetheless remember the incident for the rest of my days and I retain some hurts from the comments, which have dredged up old status-based insecurities about my state school education ("SUNY I can understand, but @Vanderbilt? Wow, she should ask for a refund") as well as concerns about how I am perceived as a young woman in academe (to the gentlemen who is "DTF": no thank you, sir). Overall, though, this particular instance matters to me and not so much the broader world. In the life cycle of social media, the incident was over almost as soon as it began. The last time I checked, the initial post had been retweeted twenty-seven times and "liked" sixty-six times.
Despite my uncomfortable feelings about these sixty-six “likers,” I am now more secure in the work that I do than I was as a twenty-something graduate student. Although I considered deleting my Twitter account, I decided that this was letting bullies win. Instead, I refrained from replying to the thread (bloggers call this "feeding the trolls," a wonderful phrase) and simply removed the app from my phone for a bit to make myself stop my obsessive checking on the thread.
So why rehash the incident here and now? If I am over it (or getting over it, to be a bit more honest), why feed social media bad behavior with its main form of sustenance, attention? The reason is because I am thinking about my own students: both graduate students and the undergraduate students I am encouraging to consider a career in academe, as well as the painfully insecure graduate student I was not so many years ago. My brief experience with public shaming makes me want to think about both the kinds of encouragement we give to our students and the way we train them to write and respond to other writers. There are probably several other articles that could be written about this twitter feed: whether about the uptick of venomous social media shaming of social science and humanities scholars; about the way claims to “rigor” can mask certain kinds of anti-intellectualism; or about the interesting intersection of readers who appear on this Twitter feed: STEM professors and graduate students skeptical of the humanities, people offended by what they refer to as the perceived “SJW” (“social justice warrior,” a term used sarcastically) bent of the academy, as well as Christina Sommers, who is a big fan. There’s a lot of anger out there that’s worth considering, and I hope that scholars in the humanities, the social sciences, and the STEM fields will continue to collaborate, bridging what I now see to be a quite dangerous divide between what C.P. Snow called the “two cultures.”
But for now, I’m reacting in a more personal, human way and worrying about the personal, human ways in which my students might respond should they come up similarly unlucky in the social media lottery.
Part of what disturbs me about what this particular twitter user is doing is the framing of his project as an intellectual crusade. Presenting the social sciences and humanities as idiotically lax, the author takes it upon himself to evaluate scholarship and scholars alike, designating himself the ultimate arbiter of scholarly worth, regardless of field difference.
What I’d want to say to my students is that this is nothing like peer review. What I’m worried I cannot say to them is anything reassuring about how they will be treated should they enter this profession in our social media moment. In part what’s tricky at present time is that the boundary between the workplace and the rest of the world is increasingly blurred, and in order to promote our scholarship, to increase our “impact factors,” we must go more and more public with our work. We blog, we tweet, we post on Academia.edu, etc. This means opening ourselves up to greater scrutiny, for better and for worse. And, very often, I think it’s for better. In a recent class, my students did all their writing on a blog. One student’s mother followed and commented on posts during the semester. At the time I thought this was a cool way for parents to see their children’s intellectual work and for students to feel excited about their writing’s significance. Now I’m a little less sanguine and a bit more worried about the risks to which I’m exposing my students as they venture out into an Internet with many hidden trolls under its bridges. For the record, I did ask actual_peerreview for his real name (see attached image), but he declined my request. This National Post article suggests the author is an academic who is protecting his career, which might be damaged by his courageous choice to publicly shame other academics by name (http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/heres-why-an-article-about-feminist-glaciology-is-still-the-top-read-paper-in-a-major-geography-journal). Meanwhile, I have been encouraging my brave students to send their words out, names attached.
The trick then, actual_peerreview’s nom de plume aside, is that when one’s academic work is critiqued in ways that are not academic, it’s difficult to tell how to react. If the attack were strictly personal—“Hey Katherine, you’re a total jerk”—it would be both bizarre and easier to dismiss. And if it were entirely academic, well, then it would be peer review. With social media comments on scholarship, we’re in murkier territory. Additionally, what my new Twitter fans reveal is the messy way in which criticisms of scholars and their scholarship become blurred, especially since what the account and its followers seem most to object to are not the particular papers but the methodologies, theories, and disciplines which they represent.
And so, I am trying to move beyond this incident by thinking about how I’d speak to a student about putting her work out on social media when her very membership in a given discipline or use of a particular theory means she may be publicly ridiculed. Here’s an attempt:
Writing something “better” would not have mattered. At first, I thought, “hey, that’s not even the worst thing I’ve written. I kind of like that article.” This is not the point. More effort on my part would not have stopped people from behaving badly. In fact, the top scholars of my field would likely have received similar criticism, by virtue of their engagement with similar ideas and theories. Perfection would not have saved me. This is an important lesson for students in particular, who are often writing scared. As Robert Boice’s work on academic writing demonstrates, perfectionists who hold onto work for too long are less influential. And by God, let’s don’t let bullies stop us students from being influential.
Your work is not you. But the response may be about you (or an idea of you). I identify as being a kind of boring “regular liberal.” I think the New Deal sounds great and I think the literary canon should be more inclusive. I recycle. So I was a bit affronted by the accusation that I was being rabidly political in my scholarship (“TOXIC MASCULINITY HETEROPATRIARCAPITALISTIC [sic] MISOGYNIST!!,” one commenter translated my article). But again, this is not the point. Even were I being more polemical, this would not justify the tenor of the remarks. Moreover, as I reviewed the comments, I kept realizing: 1. That the commenters were reading my abstract, not my article. 2. Many were reading the abstract superficially. 3. Almost all were looking for the abstract to support their idea of me and/or my discipline. 4. When I looked at what these ideas of me included—stupid, sexually available, greedy, language policing, and, most bizarrely, a believer in the occult? --they had very little to do with who I am or how I conduct myself. They are not even very good representations of my writing. When working with our students, whether they have received needlessly hostile reviews of their writing or particularly nasty and personal student evaluations, it may be helpful to remind them to be skeptical about people who know them very little and yet wish to make big claims about them. As the saying goes, “is it helpful? Is it kind? Is it true?” In the case of nasty (distinct from negative) comments, the answer to these questions is often no.
Some people wish you would just shut up and go away. Despite university and program emphases on diversity, not everyone wishes to see universities or academic scholarship change (this tension may be one among many explanations for the fractious conversation around campus protests this year). As a result, students can find themselves putting scholarship forward in a world that contains those who wish to expose them for affirmative action faker, who wish they would get kicked out of the academy, who wish they would stop writing and talking. In a cursory survey of the articles tweeted, I noticed a large number of papers that used feminist, queer, and critical race theory among the ranks of the pilloried. In my own experience, I was described as both stupid and someone that a user would be “DTF”—a charming way to engage with women during the peer review process, surely.
The justification for subjecting humanists and social scientists to this public shaming goes under the banner of exposing “jargon,” that easy target of bad sentence contests. These contests and actual_peerreview’s twitter feed wish postmodern theory would go away. In the past, I have occasionally taught Lee Edelman’s Homographesis with its defense of “jargon” and its skepticism towards the political agendas that move under the cover of plain speech such as “family values,” a term of art if ever there was. For me, teaching Edelman is a way of helping students question kneejerk responses to difficult theory. Things that are difficult and seem needlessly opaque can make students angry at first. I get this. As it made me during my first years of grad school, theory can cause students to feel dumb and it can make scholars seem like pretentious, elitist jerks. Heck, sometimes scholars are pretentious, elitist jerks. But it’s also the case that theory can be a profoundly empowering and important tool for thinking: most of us have had that glorious light bulb moment in the study carrel or in the seminar room when we suddenly have a word to describe that nagging, previously nameless thing. I would encourage us and our student to keep working in words, yes, sometimes playfully and deconstructively, with goofy parentheticals and slashes if need be. Through words, even awkward new ones, we come into new ways of thinking. Let’s not turn off an avenue for thinking.
Unlike actual_peerreview, actual peer review is incredibly helpful. Again, pen name aside, with one very small exception, what I experienced when I opened my phone was not peer review. Telling a writer that she is stupid and should get a new job does not tell her how to improve her essay. Obviously. That’s because the target of actual_peerreview is the author and her discipline, not the essay.
Instead, in actual peer review, the collaborative nature of writing is allowed to emerge through a focus on the written object; the writer has begun something and then her reviewers help make that thing better and brighter, whether or not they ultimately recommend publication. In a healthy peer review process, energy is directed at building a better piece of writing or research and the lovely side effect is that we often become better writers and researchers in the process, whether we are on the giving or receiving side of the criticism. What I received from actual_peerreview was not intended to make my writing better; it was a shaming. A shaming cannot possibly improve the field, the writer, or the piece; at best (or worst), it may have the effect of shutting writers up, turning off voices that might otherwise contribute someday, even if it’s not with the piece in question.
While actual_peerreview is doubling down on the second word that makes up “peer review,” I’d like my students to focus on the first. In the peer review process, reviewers are engaging with anonymity in its most generous form, gifting the author with helpful criticism and turns of phrase, knowing that the author is trying to join the same conversation in which they are participating. In contrast, what’s going on in the twitterverse is anonymity in its most cowardly form, hostility that creates distance between the academic writer and these readers.
In addition to helping our students parse occasionally unprofessional criticism they may receive, I also think we might serve our students better by showing them how to constructively review and respond. As a younger scholar, I have sometimes struggled with this—it’s easier to set one’s argument up by taking someone else’s down; it’s easier to sound smart when criticizing than when praising; gossip is fun, even when it’s academic gossip! But taking time in the seminar room to help our students acknowledge what an author is doing well, or at least acknowledge what she is trying to do, before moving to negative criticism is what it means to be a responsible critic. In casual terms, we might call it being “game,” willing to try out what the author or research has presented before bagging on it. This kind of gameness is also what will make our graduate students better responders to their own students.
This gets me to the one comment on the thread that I liked, the one that made me laugh aloud when I read it. In part, my essay argued that Virtual 2Pac’s Coachella performance represents a new moment in media history that should make us worry about the way celebrities will be commoditized in the future. On the thread, one user summarized my essay this way “Virtual 2Pac is a bit shit.” When I read this, I snorted. I smiled. Perhaps a bit unfairly reduced, but basically true: I do think Virtual 2Pac is a bit shit. In addition to proving the adage that brevity is the soul of wit, this post showed that the author had read what I had written, and, to a degree, had given it a fair shake.
In other words, I could imagine a casual conversation in which a peer might say something like this to me in an effort to help me write a better, more interesting article. Writing, after all, has always been a way of thinking for me and any time peer review can push me to think in new or better ways, I welcome it. What I fear as I train students to enter our strange new public/private terrain of academic publishing is that being reviewed will be associated with shaming and being found out. I fear that my students may get turned off from putting their thoughts to the page and putting those pages to print.
Gird your loins and venture forth bravely. In some ways, actual peer review is a cozy place. We do basically agree within our fields that our theories and fields and methods have value. However, it’s worth sticking our necks out and communicating with the world outside the bubble exactly because we believe our fields and theories and methods have value. It’s a little scary and exposed out there, and we may fear that the worst can happen.
That’s just true. For 22-year-old me, what occurred on Twitter comes pretty close to “the worst that can happen”—I was exposed as a stupid fraud in front of lots of people.
I would say to a student that the good news is that the worst can happen and you will not be destroyed. It sucks, like you thought. But you didn’t die and the people who already respect you and love you will continue to respect you and love you. More good news: no one is trying to kick you out of your discipline. The bad news is that these bullies don't want your discipline to exist.
In some ways, this last bit of bad news can be galvanizing. Whatever insecurities we may fight as writers and scholars, we love our disciplines. This is why we’ve committed our lives to the work we do. In the face of Internet hatred, the love of our work, our students and our fields may be a great resource for resilience.
* Since the time of this incident, the account has gone offline; however, a new account with a different creator has sprung up to take its place.
Who gets to be silly? Who gets to play?
I'm traveling right now, so I'm a bit off my regular writing and yoga routines. In particular, there's a yoga class that I'm missing.
But I don't think about it as class; it's my play date. If you are lucky enough to be in the Reno area, there's a class called Power and Play that Kim Arnott offers at Midtown Community Yoga (http://www.midtowncommunityyoga.com/) .
I think that there's a tendency to sometimes turn leisure or our creative or athletic outlets into more work. I love yoga, which is very different in many ways from my job as a teacher and academic. So, what did I do, I did a yoga teacher training. I created another opportunity to do lesson planning and worrying about whether classes were going well. Similar things can happen to our other creative outlets. My mother loved to make jewelry as a creative release during her time as a middle school science teacher. She made bright earrings and matching bracelets. She has a wonderwall of glass beads from around the world that she liked using in different pieces. Then, she started selling her jewelry at craft fairs. She became stressed out due to losing weekends to setting up tents, managing her cash box, and resenting weekends that were lost to festivals that didn't go well. After a few years of this, and many beautiful artworks, she quit.
I'm happy to say that now, in retirement, my mom is back to creating. She took a class in metalworking at the local art museum. She's playing again.
I feel this way writing here. I also feel this way in the Power and Play class with Kim. It's not "my workout." It's not really even my practice time. Instead, once a week, I show up to play. Kim, a wiry, tattooed sprite challenges us to try hard/crazy things. She asks us to bring her poses we want to try. Not master, just try. Just play with.
I especially enjoy seeing who else comes to class. One weekend, while a yoga festival is going on, there are just two students, myself and another woman. We are two middle age ladies who want to be upside down.
I like thinking about this. I don't know the other woman who has shown up to play, but I imagine we are much the same: responsible, a bit worried about the responsibilities in our lives, mothers, wives, professionals, ladies with a bit of body anxiety in our stretch pants. Who are we to want to be upside down? Who are we to want to play?
See, I think we're very used to/comfortable with "exercising." That hits all my responsibility buttons: "I'm being so good--I went jogging!" But the joy of play! It's wild and it doesn't hit those buttons--instead, we are sweating, nervously giggling women who want to do forearm balances. The other weekend, I fall out of a pose, and go tumbling ass over teakettle. This is not effort expended to reach some noble goal or to help me lose the baby weight. Its play. And my co-conspirators, Kim and this other woman, we're having a great time.
Lately, I have been admiring the heck out of people who invite others to playtime or to creativity. I keep coming back to a recent touchstone for me, Elizabeth GIlbert's recent book Big Magic (http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/), which I read as a call to art. She reminds her readers of a time when we all made art, a time before we started to care about who is and isn't good at it. She asks her readers to reconnect with what she refers to the magic of creating.
We could also call it play.
I did a bad and very classic thing the other day. After 2 1/2 years of dissertating (a horrible verb, but there it is) and then another 8 years of revising, rewriting, waiting on editors, managing rejections, more research, rewriting, and waiting, my first book appeared in print. When it showed up on my doorstop, I was over it.
I had a new baby and, as far as my writing goes, I was already on to the next thing. Had been on to the next thing for some time.
Nevertheless, I sent copies of the book to my graduate school advisors and to my parents. Posted an obligatory photo of the thing to facebook. But for the most part, I moved on, stacked other books on top of my own, allowed it to get buried in paperwork. Really, I barely looked at the thing.
Then, last week, the classic and bad thing. One of my advisors wrote a little note on Facebook saying how glad he was to get his copy in the mail. I wrote back embarrassed and ashamed, "oh good. it's a great tool for setting coffee cups on, evening out wobbly tables, etc!"
As soon as I had done it, I realized my mistake, piling embarrassment on embarrassment. I had worked on the damn thing for over a decade and it was so much easier to make a joke, to undermine myself than to take a compliment and declare myself proud.
I have a lot of "feelings" about this. And maybe I'll succeed in tying this back to yoga...
First, I think there's still a feeling of exposure around success. Maybe it's unique to me, but I don't think so. It's a fear of taking pride in or celebrating something that might turn out to not be good: "what if I brag about my accomplishment and everyone else thinks its a dumb thing that I've done?"
But there's also an aspect of this that I think has less to do with my own insecurities and more to do with our rush-rush, busy-busy culture instead. And here's where it comes back around to yoga.
Yoga teachers and students alike rush savasana. Savasana (corpse pose) comes at the end of a class or practice. It basically looks like lying on your back on the floor with your eyes closed. In a typically annoying yoga way, if you google "hardest yoga pose," alongside crazy handstands and pretzel-like twists, you'll see a bunch of people lying on the ground.
It's the pose that represents the end of effort. After all the pain, hard work, shaking muscles, and endless chatuarangas, in Savasana, the body gets to enjoy all the benefit of what has come before. You marinate. You integrate. It's the payoff, the most important pose.
You think about whether you need to stop at the store for half-and-half. You start feeling guilty about leaving your husband for so long with the baby. You think about the dinner you need to make and if you should shower now or in the morning before work. The teacher says, "if you need to leave early, please roll up your mat quitely." When the damn chime rings, you pop up, quick to be first out to avoid the parking lot log jam and get to the store. You check your phone for messages as you slip on your shoes.
My friend has this theory about how writers/academics are like the actors she reads about in magazines. She explained, "they're always paranoid that they're never going to work again. It's like we're afraid people will forget about us, so we say yes to every project."
I think there's more to it, though, than the fragile ego she describes. There's also a kind of Puritan work ethic at play here--so long as we're working, we're demonstrating that we are good and deserving. Pausing after a project to celebrate or lying around on the floor seems luxurious, decadent (sinful?).
But it's also a way of honoring the work that's preceded it before plunging on into the next task.
To rush too fast from work to more work actually dishonors the process. Or, more accurately, finishing and seeing what's happened is part of the process. I'm not saying we need to be ego maniacs constantly celebrating ourselves with gold stars, but i am saying that jumping right into more work without pausing to appreciate what's just been accomplished can have a diminishing effect on our work overall.
And this gets me back to my bad thing. Rather than accepting a compliment or celebrating an achievement, I diminished it (what, this old thing? who cares? what's next to do?). On the one hand, you might say I'm not so attached to my achievements, but on the other, you might say I'm addicted to always achieving the next thing in a way that harms my enjoyment of the present. In the hope to be better, to do more, achieve more, improve, I do not enjoy the culmination of what has been, short-circuiting the last moments of my experience.
At the end of a work process (a writing project, a yoga class), there's a ceasing of exertion. But as it turns out, appreciating a moment of switching from the effort-full to the effortless is a lot of work.
Okay. It's time to write.
Uh. Okay. But there are these dishes I need to do first. I mean, have you seen those breakfast dishes? Totally disgusting.
No. Dirty dishes are like rabbits, soy sauce packets, and wire hangers--you think they're gone, but they breed when you're not looking. Time to write.
But just the dishes. Then I won't have to wash them at lunch.
You can wash them with the lunch dishes. No.
Just one little coffee mug?
Okay. Okay. I'll write. I just need to get my beverages and snacks. Water, coffee, almonds.
Don't touch those dishes!!!
Look, here I am sitting down in front of my computer. I'm so good, opening the computer, sitting in front of the computer. I'm rearranging my beverages so they are in a nice line. My laptop is plugged in. Here are my papers; I am squaring off the stack. La la la.
What are you doing??
No! Open the Word document. What are you focusing on today?
Revising my intro and the first section.
Good. Let's focus on that.
Word document open. Looking an intro. Fixed that verb-less sentence. ooh, maybe I should say that the "press presented Lon Chaney as the special embodiment of empathy;" then I won't be using passive voice. Hm, should I use that or which here....
You are supposed to be clarifying your argument and rewriting your whole thesis paragraph. Why are you dinking around at the sentence level?
I'm warming up?
But it's haaard to think about that.
Just 25 minutes. Work on your intro paragraph for 25 minutes.
Okay, but I'm just going to check my email first. Maybe someone needs something.
But they might neeeeeed me?
No. You are not that important.
Facebook? Maybe someone liked that picture.
Twitter? Maybe someone said something mean but funny?
VIne? what's a vine? Reddit? I could reddit?
Now you don't even know what you are talking about. Focus, Fusco, Focus.
It's very annoying when you do that with our last name.
I know. Do it anyway. Focus. Just for twenty more minutes.
Did it!!! It's horrible, but maybe good? I did it!
Great. See you tomorrow.
Hm. I might have some to dishes to do tomorrow.....
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote