Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waiting for the words

I've never subscribed to the notion of a muse. My approach to my work has been, well, workmanlike; it's not always easy, but when I need to produce, I grind it out. When I was writing my dissertation, I treated it like a job. By the time the day was done, I needed to have five pages done. And as a result, I produced the dissertation in about six months.

But it's clear to me that I need time for thinking built into my day if I'm going to make progress on my research, or on constructing a syllabus, or on a review, or nearly any other creative endeavor on my plate. My thinking time on most days consists of my walk to and from the office, about 10-15 minutes at a leisurely stroll, longer if I stop to get a beverage.

During the two mornings a week I'm spending off campus for intensive work, I've found myself more consciously taking time for thought. As I lift my eyes from book or computer, stare out the window, and try to formulate or follow an idea, I feel more like I'm waiting for inspiration than usual. In fact, I sometimes feel like a parody of an academic, surrounded by books, scratching my chin, gazing absent-mindedly into space.

It's not so much waiting, though, as processing. In no more than a few moments, I'm able to see clearly what the next step is, and decide whether it follows on the course I'm currently plotting, or need to make a note of the insight to be pursued later. Does that mean I'm more like a bricklayer than an artist?

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