Sunday, August 10, 2008

Working Patterns and Working Habits

Yesterday I met a professor from a junior college at a barbeque. We were each talking about our own work, and he asked me whether I advised people with respect to setting up a dedicated working space, and on how to get people to work six hours a day.

And I don't know if those are just things that I don't believe in, or whether I just don't think those are things that one teaches. Or at least they're not things that I would teach.

I won't dispute the importance of being able to put in a good six hours (or more) of writing and working. If you can't put in such days, your chances of finishing are greatly reduced. But I would not to choose to emphasize the importance of that in my teaching. I would think the six hour days should arise out of good working habits and a good relationship with work. If you have a good working pattern and a good relationship with work, then the six hour working sessions will come of their own accord.

As for the dedicated working space: well, I think it certainly helps to have a good place to work, but I don't know that a dedicated working space is necessarily an answer. Personally, I do a lot of good work in cafes, and I've met others who do even more. I know one professor at Berkeley who often puts in solid five or six hour stints in the cafe that I frequent.

I guess, as I write this, I think I'm more in line with what Julia Cameron says in The Right to Write about grabbing your writing whenever and where ever you can, without making excuses. There's a part of me that says if you have a good working habit, a good relationship to your work, then you will work enough. I don't like to tell people they need a dedicated space on the principle that not having the dedicated space can then become an excuse for not working.

But there's also a part of me that says "we're all different." What works for one person may not work as well for another. I truly and deeply believe that developing a good relationship with work will help all of us. But I'm open to the possibility that having a dedicated space for work is part of helping some people develop a good relationship with work. It's not what I wold choose to emphasize, but what works for me is not what works for everyone. Cameron does discuss having a nice place to write at length. It's not as if she is saying the place is unimportant.

In any event, the conversation with this professor (who happens to also be working on a dissertation-- Ed.D.) reminded me that what works for each of us is different. And yet, each of us must develop a habit and a pattern of working consistently.
Whether one develops a good relationship with work through working on changing ideas about work, or whether one develops that relationship by dedicating space and time to it--I don't know which of those factors to prioritize. It's quite possible that dedicating space and time to the project is a key to developing a good relationship with your work.

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