This is a boring post about my work process and issues therein.
My main goal this summer is to write. And lead a relatively unhurried life. Everything else is icing on the cake. I’ve got this book on the mp3 format that has been simmering for two years now. I’ve got loads of material and notes and stuff waiting to be written up. I just haven’t had time to write, or when I have had time to write, I’ve had other writing obligations. Not now. I’ve said “no” just enough to give myself this little three month window of writerly paradise.
Part of the problem is that I have realized that I am slow to shift my attention from one thing to another, and therefore the constant distractions of the school year are a problem. Moreso are the constant distractions of administration. I spent the better part of the last year learning how to be a (very, very) low level administrator while also doing the job. I think I was reasonably successful at the job, but at some personal cost — especially around writing. So I’m taking the summer to figure out ways to better organize my life so the admin doesn’t colonize my time and consciousness so much. I mean, if I never traveled that would also free up a bunch of time. But I certainly wouldn’t want to give that up.
I’m looking into a number of strategies but issue #1 is changing my relationship to email. Email used to be so wonderful (I’ve had it in one form or another since about 1982). It was mostly messages from friends and colleagues about interesting stuff or material from listservs that interested me. Now, well, it’s not mostly that. It’s mostly stuff that will distract me. And so I am working on breaking the habit of getting up in the morning and checking my email to see what’s coming in. I’ve been in that habit since at least 1999, and probably earlier. So it’s not easy. Noon seems like an arbitrary time to allow myself on. After I’ve had some time to write, read and reflect. And eat breakfast. So that’s the first step, which I intend to continue into the school year if I can pull it off. As a rule, no email before noon. We’ll see if I can do it. Today I already failed but it was really brief and I went right back to writing.
The product for the week so far: approximately 6 pages of book ms., a Bad Subjects editorial, and a day off diagnosing problems on my computer. Not bad. I’d like to be putting out 10 or more manuscript pages a work week, which would mean 4 pages tomorrow. We’ll see if I can do it. I have a bit to say about Adorno’s Opera and the Long Playing Record and its relevance for a theory of formats, so it could be done.
Of course, this is not a perfect plan. There are other distractions, some administrative, and some pedagogical (like planning a seminar and redesigning an undergrad class from the ground up), and some personal (not in a bad way — just stuff to do). We’ll see. Baby steps. Let’s start with the email and see where it goes from there.
That email is a good one.
Email idea, that is.
I wonder if you’ve tried “Temptation Blocker”? It’s a little program that is supposed to help with focus, mostly by blocking the things we do to procrastinate online. I haven’t tried it yet, but some of my friends swear by it:
is it me or does it seem like a LOT of people are trying to take control of email? (or, more broadly, their time spent online.) here’s two (perhaps obvious) tricks i’ve mastered recently:
1. when no response is necessary, don’t you dare respond – not even with “thanks.”
2. email is like good lovin’: the less email you give, the less you get.
good luck writing, j. i know how excited you get when fully researching and writing – here’s to an exciting and productive summer.
Temptation blocker is brilliant though I hate doing stuff like that to myself. It’s all about behavior modification. David’s points are well-taken, except the x-factor in my case is administration. I can’t keep up with it all, but then I can’t give up either. Ah well, right now I’m just allowing myself to suck at it in order to have other parts of my life in working order. We’ll see where it gets me.
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