Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why work every day?

I was ready to blow off writing my blog this evening. I was tired--a touch too much sun, a bit of dehydration and a little headache. But there it was 11:30pm and I felt like just dropping in a few words.

Thinking about the Tour de France a bit more. The announcers talk a lot about embracing the pain of the ride. I think the Tour de France is a decent parallel for writing a dissertation in some ways--or more generally, athletic endeavor is--especially when it involve endurance.

I was writing about the curtains of misery and the sense that the work of the dissertation writer is painful. If there is pain in writing a dissertation, I wonder whether it ought not be like the pain of one of those riders. There is pain in working through the difficult spots, and there will be difficult spots. Life is like that generally. I have no doubt in my mind that the riders in the Tour de France love riding in general. The pain comes from pushing their limits--but they're pushing their limits doing something they love. This is a far cry from the sense of misery that I have heard reported from many writers. Many writers come to hate their project.

Ok, sure, when you're riding in a race, you probably don't have your team leader telling you how inadequate your work is--and when you're a dissertation writer there's a great chance that you do--at least I know lots of writers who have gotten that general message from their faculty committee.

I wonder how many writers really love both their project and the general work of writing academic writing before they run into the dissertation project and an aggressive, insulting, or negative faculty committee.

It seems to me that embracing the pain of the difficult spots in the task is much easier if you generally enjoy what you're doing.

The thing about constant practice, and persisting in your practice against whatever obstacles you may face, is that it can become easier. At 10:30pm tonight I was ready to go to sleep, and I lay back in bed to do a little reading to drop off to sleep. But I felt that writing was worth the effort--because I know that writing is not painful in itself; it's only painful to me when I try to force through the difficult spots. And I know that what seems difficult seems less difficult with greater practice.

This, I think, occurs on many levels--whether your practice is simply to write with greater ease, or your practice is to find focus for your project, by practicing and by repeating the effort, your work will improve.

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