This month I’ve been following Dr Nadine Muller – and I think it’s been good for my mental health! Her project ‘The Good Stuff’ aims to produce a year’s worth of positive thoughts – one per day. Now, when I scroll through twitter in the morning, I find myself looking forward to coming across the handwritten index card that contains today’s happy thought:
Probably my favourite post this month was the one about time: ‘Be patient, persevere, value slowness’. Her point is that most of the things we do as academics require time (if we’re to do them well), but that time has become a privilege in academia.
I’ve been thinking about this same issue this month, but for different reasons. I’ve found lately that short deadlines for turning around re-drafts, proofs, and conference abstracts; combined with a desire to bosh through my to-do list items; combined with the overload of blogs, tweets, news articles and emails to read, have caused me to change my standard work methods so that I now routinely rush through things and skim read.
I thought that I had lost my love for research and writing – I realised it was because I was no longer allowing myself to devote proper time to my work.
My rush to get through the reading I’d decided was necessary for my draft (usually due that week) meant that I was no longer able to just enjoy an academic essay. I wasn’t reading for pleasure; I wasn’t allowing myself to just sit with the ideas. Reading articles was freighted with anxiety and the need to take copious notes.
It was the same with the writing. Forcing myself to write to short deadlines (there was usually quite a bit of procrastination in the week running up to the due date), I had to binge-write whole sections of essays, fuelled by caffeine and anxiety. I longed to develop that ‘mild happiness’ in writing described by Oliver Burkeman in his reflection on Robert Boice’s ‘How writers journey to comfort and fluency’ (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/11/column-change-life-very-expensive-secret-good-writing-oliver-burkeman), but I just didn’t have the time!
So this month I’ve tried to write something every day. Not much, probably just 10 minutes a day, that I can come back to and work over again the next day. I’ve designated time in the afternoon as ‘reading time’ when I can read that linked article from Twitter – the one that really needed concentration to be properly appreciated.
And while I’ve not achieved it yet, I’m going to keep trying to follow Robert Boice and Nadine Muller’s advice: Cultivate patience, and value slowness.