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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clay or Granite?

[Merry Christmas, for those of you who celebrate that. SMT will be going on hiatus until New Year's. Temporarily hiding comments too.]

Do you mold your ideas out modeling clay, or do you cut away the unnecessary parts from a solid mass of granite?

I prefer the first method, since it's less complicated, but often I find myself with a massive stone that I need to carve. In other words, an inchoate document with thousands of words concealing an article that needs to be written. In that case sometimes I just start over with a clean version containing only the actual sentences that say something intelligible.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Deadline Disassociation

I picked up the term "deadline disassociation" from this post by Cal Newport.

DD means that you don't work backwards from the deadline, but forwards from when you get the assignment. CN recommends starting a college assignment within 24 hours after it is assigned, rather than 24 hours (or less) before it is due.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

T'ang Dynasty

The T'ang dynasty, the greatest period of Chinese classical poetry, was 618 through 907. A T'ang dynasty writing session last from 6:18 a.m. to 9:07, or approximately that much. If you are an early riser then you can get all your writing done by shortly after 9, and then have the rest of the day to live your life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Productive Boredom

We think of interest as being productive but not boredom. Curiosity is productive, but not incuriosity, we think, and rightly so.

Yet a dissatisfaction about the dull way things are habitually done can be productive. Boredom is like pain, it tells us that something is wrong and requires a change. After all, if we don't think the materials we are studying are dull, then something is wrong if our approaches have no spark of interest.

Very dull texts can also be mines of interest, if looked at in the right way. I'm thinking of things like Rousel's long poem La vue, with its interminably flat descriptions. These evoked the interest of Foucault, Ashbery, and Robbe-Grillet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some Things a Thesis Isn't

A thesis is not a list of themes. (A thesis is the statement of a claim, not a list.)

A thesis is not a statement of intention. ("In this paper I will explore the relation between Lorca and Andalusia.")

A thesis is not a list of five or six minor claims.

A thesis should not be an obvious or self-evident statement. It must be arguable in two senses. Someone, potentially, might disagree with it: "That's an arguable proposition, sir." And you can make an argument for it.

It must be novel and distinctive: not present already in the critical literature. It can't be the same thesis as that of any other scholar.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nickel Words and Dollar Words

I would never advocate dumbing down your prose by avoiding "big words." Nevertheless, an avalanche of excessively latinate verbiage can have an obfuscatory effect on your potential interlocutors as well as being downright ugly. I would never say not to use a dollar word where a nickel word would do, but I would say that you should calibrate your vocabulary for precision and rhetorical efficacy. One common problem is the use of too many words ending in -ize or -ization.

One problem is that people use "big words" without knowing what they mean, confusing desultory with derogatory. Throwing verbiage at a problem is like throwing money at it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tiredness

Have you ever been really tired when all you've done is attend pointless meetings where you did not have to do very much, or wait for a plane, or wait around for other people to do things so you can complete the next step of a process? You can expend energy in those activities; you might even call them work, if they are part of your day at work and more or less mandatory. You are tired afterwords, yet you did not even try to get anything done. You are not tired from working, but from not working, which is extremely wearisome. You could say: "I did not work very hard today, and as a consequence I am very tired."

In contrast, you might write for two hours first thing in the morning and not feel tired at all. If you are doing it right, you might have even more energy for the rest of the day to go out guiltlessly and do other things unrelated to your writing. It might sound like heresy, but you do not need to be mentally fatigued and emotionally spent after writing for a few hours.

If you sleep well, then you will be well-rested and be ready to write the next day. There is no point in bragging about how over-worked you are, so much that you are losing sleep. That's like boasting about not being able to work, since chances are that your work after an unrestful night will not go as well. When I am sleep-deprived I barely get through the day, through the classes I have to teach, and nothing more. Nothing to brag about.

***

A related point:: if you exercise for an hour, you will more energy, rather than less, the rest of the day. The exercise will not tire you out physically the way waiting in an airport will. Fatigue comes more from not exercising or from overdoing it. After exercising, rest is more restful.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feast or Famine

"Feast or famine" is a colloquial expression in English referring to events irregularly distributed in time. Feast or famine writers get very little done most weeks and months, but have periods of two or three days when they try to make up for what they haven't done. They realize they are up for tenure and try to write three or four extra articles all at once. This does not work.

Their scholarly base might be very strong; they might spend a lot of time reading and very little time writing. The problem is that a feast or two does not make up for the lean times when nothing gets done. These are the writers with huge gaps in their cvs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

SMT--The Book (Introduction)

This is a book for everyone who wants to get something written within the academic world--and beyond. It will not replace more complete guides to grammar or time management; it is not a style guide like The Chicago Manual or a treatise on research methodology, or a defense of the humanities. It includes ideas and tips on many of these topics, but not in particularly systematic form. Stupid Motivational Tricks consists of a selection of blog posts in a few categories, ranging from the scholarly base and "scholarly self-fashioning" to task management.

I am a moderately successful academic in a Spanish and Portuguese Department of a mid-Western University. One thing I have been able to do with more than moderate success is to publish books and articles and become a recognized scholar in my field. My tips might be more useful for scholars in the Humanities, but I believe many of them have wider applicability. I have learned quite a bit from one of the other authors of the blog, Thomas Basbøll, a poet and scholar of organization theory working in Denmark, despite the differences in our academic training. Perhaps because of these differences. Some of my tips might be relevant to other kinds of work, whether or not it is academic or even writing. My other sometime blog collaborator, Bob Basil, shares my background in academic humanities and, like Thomas, teaches in a business school. I'd like to emphasize what academic writing shares with other types of effective communication rather than what makes it unique.

This book is informed by own distinctive approach and sensibility, my own sense of humor and propensity to outrage. While my quirky writerly voice might not be congenial to everyone, I believe my core principles are valid ones. Develop and maintain your scholarly base, intelligently manage your time and space, refine your prose style, and get to work.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Limits of Agreement

I try to maintain a good equilibrium between the comfort and consolation of the confirmation of my beliefs and the stimulation offered in debate and disagreement. When people agree with me or tell me I am right, especially people I respect, it creates a warm feeling. On the other hand, when someone disagrees, it helps me to clarify my own thoughts.

What is the origin of the disagreement?

(1) I have not expressed myself clearly.

(2) I have been clear, but my interlocutor has substituted a less nuanced version of my argument and is disagreeing with that.

(3) The interlocutor has understood my argument completely, but will not accept it because s/he simply believes a countervailing claim is stronger. Or it might be a case where the disagreement comes down to irreducible appeals to individual differences in temperament, taste...

(4) I was clearly wrong and someone is setting me straight.

(5) My interlocutor simply has such a strong stake in a particular position, that s/he is not willing to listen.

(6) The disagreer is a defender of the indefensible: plagiarism, racism, piracy on the high seas...

(7) The disagreer is arguing in bad faith, acting as a concern troll or "Kent Johnson."

This is not an exhaustive list, but it will do for now. In cases 1-4, disagreement is productive (the way a cough can be "productive") in producing the clarification of claims and opinions. In the last three situations, disagreement is an unproductive irritant rather than a stimulation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Barriers

Certain fields have barriers for entry. To do what I do, for example, I have to be able to speak and write Spanish at a high level. I see this as a barrier because it is simply a given. Since it's something I share with everyone else in my field, it doesn't set me off from the crowd. (Nevertheless, there are Hispanists who haven't mastered certain details of phonology yet; so maybe it's not a barrier to entry. In the UK Hispanists did not [traditionally] speak Spanish well though that has changed considerably in the past generation) I wish I had even more mastery of the language than I do, but it hasn't held me back.

The high-wire artist has to be able to stay on the wire. Whatever other tricks she can perform in theory or on the ground don't mean anything without that one skill.

The barrier is not a trivial one. Suppose I wanted to be a Sinologist but didn't want to memorize endless characters, or be a musicologist without knowledge of harmony. I might even have interesting ideas about the T'ang dynasty or about music, but I wouldn't be taken seriously. That's the medium in which experts in the field have to swim. (Water polo players have to learn to swim first; hockey players, to skate.)

It's a complex question, because the barrier to entry can get confused with competence in the field. A "heritage speaker" might face discrimination in a Spanish Department. Or a minor flaw in phonology might disqualify a candidate who is otherwise superior.

It's difficult to enforce a high level of writing among Spanish majors. Since we don't view undergraduates as (potential) colleagues, we don't accord them the respect of demanding a minimal standard of writing in the Spanish language. If we demanded that level, then we would be effectively creating a barrier to entry into the major itself, or spending all our time teaching syntax and never really getting to the content of the literature and culture courses.

The English major can do a backflip on the ground; the Spanish major has to do it on the high-wire. We are constantly having to say: "that would have been a good flip, had you not fallen off the wire."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Orwell's Passives

The subject of Orwell's dislike of the passive voice has been covered at Language Log extensively, so I won't cover the topic at length. Orwell himself uses the passive voice quite a bit in his own essay. He cheerfully admits that he breaks his own rules, but does not draw the logical conclusion from this.

The passive voice is one of the main shibboleths of a certain kind of composition teacher, one who has seen too many badly written papers that tend, also, to use the passive voice. I never use the passive when the active is better; nevertheless, I also try to never use the active voice when the passive might be preferable. Does the passive obscure agency? Sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't. Most people who hate the passive for that reason give examples like "It hasn't happened yet." The only problem is that this sentence happens to be in the active voice. Not all sentences that obscure agency are in the passive, and not all uses of the passive voice obscure agency, since you can add the phrase "by the agent" at the end of the sentence.

What the passive allows is for a shift in information structure. Sometimes, you don't need to put the agent first, as subject of the sentence. "This bridge was put up in 1938." Who put it up? We don't care; the point is the bridge and when it was built, not the names of the bridge-builders.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Introductions & Theses

I had a colleague once (someone I no longer work with and who will not be identified here) who told me that an ex-spouse had looked at an introductory paragraph and said, "That's not a proper introduction, try again." My colleague tried again and was told the same thing, etc... My colleague, in fact, could not write an introduction, though I did not say this in the conversation. No wonder it was an ex-spouse!

***

I was visiting professor 10 years ago at a university I won't name. The Graduate Students in my course were supposed to turn in a thesis, and only one out of a class of 10 could do it, write a thesis that was acceptable to me. Many articles I review for journals do not have an arguable thesis.

***

I learned to write introductions and theses in High School. These are basic skills that should be acquired before college, and yet colleagues and aspiring scholars have not always mastered them.

A thesis is the central claim that the article will demonstrate. You should be able to express it in a single sentence of about 30 words. It has to be broad-ranging and significant in its implications, and yet highly specific. It cannot be simply self-evident. Vagueness is fatal.

***

Suppose I think that the narrator of a novel is paranoid. That's an insight or the germ of one. So let's build a thesis out of this.

(1) The narrator of Over the Hills and Through the Forest is paranoid.

That's not a good thesis yet, because it looks like an isolated insight without any significance. Let's try again.

(2) Since Raimundo Pera was writing during the Patagonian dictatorship of 1934-36, he chose to use a paranoid narrator in Over the Hills and Through the Forest to reflect the general aura of paranoia experienced during this period.

Here the thesis reflects the relationship between two phenomena. That's better. Let's imagine the finished paper, though: the writer is likely to establish some background about the political situation and then go on to talk about the paranoid narrator. Boring. The writer holds to a very naive theory about how literature reflects society.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Page is Never Blank

For the scholarly writer, the page can never be blank. There is always some reading, some research, some thought, that precedes the act of writing. Once the page is not blank, then the process of writing becomes one of modifying, revising, what is already there on the pages or on the screen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meetings & Email

Suppose there's a meeting of 15 people (departmental faculty, for example) earning an average of $35 an hour plus benefits. That's a $750 dollar meeting. By skipping this meeting and putting this time to more productive use I'm actually saving my university a lot of money!

***

I kind of wish my employer would not bombard me with emails all day long. They are different sorts of email, from different units on campus; some are vacuous feel-good messages from the Chancellor or Provost; some are actually useful invitations; some are necessary requests to fill in some legal form. I get the calendar of events every week--something available on the university web page. The department secretary will forward a message to the entire department. Maybe one in ten of these messages is something I really need to see. The economic cost of everyone in the university sorting through all these mass emails every day is not insignificant. Sure, it's 10 seconds here and ten seconds here, but it adds up to a chunk of change at the end of the day. So why am I wasting time writing this post? By clarifying these issues to myself I can come up with solutions, like turning off my email when I want to get something done.

Also, the larger picture is that the employer should not make the employee feel he's working by just opening up emails and deciding whether they are relevant or not. That is work that is not at all productive for teaching, research, or service. When I am doing this, I am doing a work-related activity, I am in my office, and engaged in official business, but I am not actually getting anything done. The email actually makes me feel Iike I'm doing something, even when I'm not. They might as well put an obstacle course between the parking lot and the office: that at least would increase employee agility and physical fitness.

In publishing SMT, I feel I am engaged in a sort of scholarship of benefit to other scholars and writers, even if in a very modest way. Even 100 visitors in a day is an audience larger than that of any scholarly publication I have ever written.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Jokes

This began as a post on the notion of "the real world" as opposed to academia, but then degenerated into a series of asinine jokes. Stop me if you've heard this one.

"Sure, it works fine in practice, if you like, but will it work in theory?"

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? [practice / theory]

How do you make $1,000,000 in publishing? Start with $10,000,000.

67% of statistics are made-up...

A guy with a split personality went out to eat alone--and asked for separate checks.

All of use are strong enough to withstand the misfortunes of other people. (La Rochefoucauld).

"What do you get if you play a country song backwards?" -- "You get your wife back, you get your dog back, you get your truck back ..."

An old guy is on his death bed, and asks his wife, tell me one thing, were you every unfaithful to me? "Well, you remember the time you needed a loan for your business, and I went to visit the banker?" Yes... Was that the only time? "Well, you remember when you were running for the president of the condominium association, and you were twenty votes short..."

A linguistics grad student from MIT was moonlighting as cab driver in Boston and picked up a fare at the airport. "Where to, buddy?" "Someplace I can get scrod." 'Huh?" What, haven't you heard that word before." "Sure... but not in perfect subjunctive."

In a linguistics lecture the speaker said "Some languages use a double negative to express a positive, but no language uses a double positive to express a negative." From the back of the lecture hall rose a sarcastic voice saying "Yeah, right."

A guy from [ethnic group deleted] kept a full glass of water and and empty glass beside his bed at night. "One for if I'm thirsty; the other for if I'm not."

How many jazz singers does it take to sing "Summertime"? --All of them.

A guy goes to launder counterfeit money in a small hillbilly town and says, "Do you have change for a 24 dollar bill?" "Sure, do you want 4 sixes or 6 fours?"

A new prisoner arrives at the Gulag and is asked, "What are in for? " "Nothing, can you believe that? Nothing, and I get 15 years." "No that can't be right, you must have done something: nothing is 10 years."

LIttle Ivan is asked in school for the definition of Capitalism. "The exploitation of man by man." And communism? "The reverse."

The owner of a small country store was known for quoting a bible verse whenever a customer came in. If some children came in to buy candy he would say "Suffer the little children to come unto me." A man came in from out of town and aksed for some blankets. "These here are a dollar a piece," he said, showing the stranger some blue blankets. "Do you have any better ones?" he asked. Just a minute, he said, and came back with some green blankets from the back room, identical to the first in everything but color. "These are five dollars a piece," he said. "Gee, I don't know, don't you have some better quality blankets?" So he went back and got some purple ones: "These are the best I have, at $20 a piece, just for you." After he made the sale and the out-of-towner left, the regulars at the store wondered what bible verse he would quote. The store-keeper said: "I saw a stranger, and I took him in."

"You told me when I met you / that your life was pretty tame. / Well I took you to a nightclub / and the the whole band knew your name."

There was tenor named Guido Nazzo. A witty critic said that he sang "Nazzo guido."

Written on a student paper: "You have a future in literary criticism; unfortunately, literary criticism has no future."

The Pope and the Head Religious Official of Israel decide to make a bet about golf. It will be the Pope and his golf partner, chosen from among the Vatican officials, against the Head Rabbi of the Jewish state and whomever he chooses in similar fashion. So the Pope convinces Phil Mickelson convert to Catholicism and brings him to the golf course. "I'd like you to meet Honorary Cardinal Mickelson." "And I'd like you to meet Rabbi Tiger Woods."

You don't want to be operated on by a surgeon whose nickname is "Zorro."

An Orthodox Rabbi, a Catholic Priest, and Imam, and a Protestant minister walk into a bar, and the bartender says, What is this, a joke?

A rabbi, a minisetr, and a priest die all around the same time and arrived at the pearly gates. St. Peter says: "What is this, a joke?"

What's after Assistant Professor? Associate Professor. What's after Associate Professor? Full Professor. What's after Full Professor? God.

The Duke English Department: a group of people united only by their common hatred of literature.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?

Philip Glass.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fire The Workaholics

Fire the Workaholics

Judge people by how much they get done, not by how over-worked they seem to be.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Orwell's Third Rule

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Orwell could have just said "Avoid wordiness" or "Be pithy." Instead, he opted for a longer version, a periphrasis. 16 syllables instead of my three or five. The shorter versions would be "possible," but maybe not desirable. I am a concise writer, but not every idea should be expressed in the most compressed, aphoristic mode. After all, with a maxim or proverb we often have to gloss or explain further.

For my taste, Orwell's essay is itself written in a verbose style. I'm not trying to play "gotcha' or "tu quoque" here, but simply to point out that pithiness is a relative judgment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Orwell's Second Rule

"Never use a long word where a short one will do."

The length of words has nothing to do with anything. I would say: "always use the right word whatever its length." Use the precise word you need to use. Sometimes empty will do and sometimes you need vacuous. Sometimes puerile and sometimes childish. Well, those are pretty much the same length, but you see what I'm saying. I've always felt that the prejudice against Latinate vocabulary stinks.

Pullum says it well: "If longer words generally have slightly different meanings to shorter ones, then surely the right injunction is to use a word which means what you want to say, regardless of length." Pullum points out that Orwell uses "scrupulous" rather than "careful," because scrupulous was the word he needed. It brings extra resonance, extra connotations, that the shorter word doesn't.

Search for "Orwell" on Language Log and you'll find similar critiques of Orwell.

***

Orwell begins his famous (and vastly overrated) essay "Politics and The English Language" by noting the decline of the English language. It should be obvious that the English language had declined in 1946.

The problem I see here is that this is not at all obvious what it would mean to say that the English language was in a sorry state. To what is Orwell comparing it? Victorian English? English in 1800, in 1700? Without a meaningful point of comparison the statement is vacuous.

Virginia Woolf had died in 1941; I suppose her death dealt the English language a serious blow, especially since James Joyce died the same year, but Hemingway and Faulkner and Auden and William Carlos Williams were still alive. And Orwell himself. (He himself excludes literary language at the end of his essay, but by doing so I think he makes a grave mistake. After all, if writers of fiction and poetry, and literary essays [like those of Woolf], can write English then the language itself cannot be decadent, only certain genres of non-fiction writing.) He can't mean that there was nobody around who was handy with a prepositional phrase. What he seems to mean is that he can pick up the newspaper or a book and easily find bad writing. Once again, without a point of comparison (newspapers of 10 years before?) he really hasn't a leg to stand on.

That a Communist pamphlet is poorly written tells us nothing about the "state of English" at a particular time. It might tell you something about Communism, or the writer of the tract. Bad writing is always possible, in any period of time.

His own invented examples are particularly puerile. You can't attack something by substituting your own parody of it for the real thing, as he does with his mock translation of Ecclesiastes. HIs suggestion of "unblack" as an example of litotes is particularly thick-headed, showing his utter lack of understanding of how the trope works rhetorically.

In future posts I will be examining more of Orwell's weak thinking about language. What bothers me most is how much people admire this fallacious and poorly executed essay. After all, if it weren't admired, I would have not reason to complain.

Don't bother to tell me what Orwell really meant. If a manifesto on behalf of clarity is so hard to understand then Orwell has failed twice over.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Excuses

In my work diaries I often put down the word "nothing" for a day nothing was accomplished. I never offer an excuse for that day. There may be a reason why I didn't get anything accomplished on that particular day. Maybe I was driving 5 hours between my two residences; maybe I was teaching and meeting with students. Maybe I was reading something for my project and didn't have anything to show for it in tangible terms. It makes no difference why I didn't accomplish anything on a particular day. What is important is that I know how many days I accomplished something and how many days I didn't.

Learning not to make excuses for yourself is fundamental. Suppose I had really good reasons for not working. I could be sick, or stressed, or whatever. At the end of the week, then, I have either have a list of accomplishments or a list of excuses.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do It My Way

Thomas had a wonderful post a few days ago in which he basically said, quoting Tolstoi, that happy writers all write in the same way. It's wonderful because it seems so counterintuitive. Aren't there different styles of writing and of writers? Don't some people work better without as much structure?

I agree with him completely. What all happy writers share is


good time and task management: an understanding of the finiteness of time and space

attention to the basics

no excuses for not getting it done

This doesn't mean you shouldn't find the particular schedule, the particular rhythm, that suits you best, or fine-tune the methods that have been proven to work. By all means tailor your time-design individually.

***


Unhappy writers fuck themselves up in numerous ways, just like Tolstoy's unhappy families. But these multiple ways can be boiled down to a few. I've been an unhappy writer too, so I know what I'm talking about.

Unhappy writers trick themselves into not writing; they are very smart about it too, inventing infinite rationalizations. They view schedules and word counts as uncreative and constrictive, rather than liberating as they really are. On the other hand, they love deadlines! Only a deadline can really get them moving, give them that external pressure. (Remember they have no internal structure to their work so they let other people tell them when they need to get something done.) They don't have a good idea of how much they can get done in an hour or fifteen minutes or a week. As a consequence they are hopelessly busy, confusing activity with accomplishment.

They are too busy to take a break from work, even if, at work, they are endlessly procrastinating. They wouldn't think of writing two hours in the morning and relaxing the rest of the day. They can't do this because they are always behind, never ahead.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Speed

(1) I am very fast at writing rough notes down in a microsoft word doc.

(2) I am also very fast at turning these notes into grammatical and inelegant sentences.

(3) I am very fast at turning these sentences into slightly better sentences.

(4)I am fast at revising these sentences so that they are actually good.

Nevertheless, I cannot perform all these steps at once. I cannot produce elegant sentences directly out of the messiness of my brain.

It might make you feel better to know that my mind is just about as messy as yours. My initial thoughts are no better arranged, no more specific, than anyone else's. What I think I am better at is the 1st step and the last: I am better than most people I know at simply generating the ideas in the first place, and also at the final stage of writing it in a decent style. I doubt I am better at (2) and (3) than the average person.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Accounting

Consider the following record:
Nov. 5: 100 words.
Nov. 7: 600
Nov. 10: 1.100
Nov. 12: 2.000
Nov. 13: 2.400
Nov. 16: 3.200
Nov. 18: 3.500
Nov. 19 4.200
Nov. 20 4.500
Nov. 24 5.000

Before I kept rigorous track of how many words I wrote, in Obsessive-Compulsive fashion, I did not know how and when the work got done. I'm not saying that the work did not get done, but it bothered me not to know how this happened. Time could slip away without me doing very much, or I could overestimate / underestimate the length of time something would take. Having a chart of how many words I work on a particular project allows me to evaluate exactly how much I can reasonably do.

Here for example, I note a span of 10 days, with an average number of words of 500. Veee-ry respectable. I notice that I am able to put two or three days together, and fit in these 10 days in a span of 17. That's good without being extraordinary.

This way I am accountable to myself. Remember that my appointment calls for me to do research for 40% of my total effort if not time. I like knowing exactly what goes into that, because otherwise it is a rather diffuse commitment. I could spend a year just on the scholarly base if I wanted; I'm certainly entitled to that at this point in my career path. While I'm working on a major project, though, I like to know what the results of my effort are in very precise terms.

If you know how much you can write, then you can correct problems and make plans. You might say: wow: "I didn't know how slowly I write; I need to have more frequent, or longer, writing sessions." Or "I can write a lot on days when I get around to it, but those days are few and far between."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jason Fried: Why work doesn't happen at work



Bob Basil, one of the authors of this blog, recommends this video. It's interesting that successful academics already do what Jason Fried recommends. They schedule themselves 3 or 4 hour blocks of time, often away from the office, to get their writing down. They abhor meetings and distrust managers (administrators) who waste their time.

Birthday

SMT was born a year ago today. Here is a post from the first day, explaining my use of the word stupid.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Busy-ness or Accomplishments?

How do you want to be judged, by how busy you appear to be or by how much you get done?

One way of judging how hard you are working is by how much of your time is occupied. The other way of judging is by looking at how much you accomplished in a given week / month / year / career.

So do you say "I worked 70 hours last week!" or do you say "Last week I finished an article!" Note the difference.

Now maybe you worked 70 hours and finished something too; that's great, but only the accomplishment really counts, in a way. The rest is what you had to do to get it done. You wouldn't judge how much you wrote by how many bottles of fountain pen ink you went through either, or your success in sales by how much gas or shoe-leather you consumed.