Lisa and Undine raised the question, what makes you write? My answer was and is Baudelairean: ordre et beauté, luxe, calme, et volupté. A garret by a good bookstore and a job as a barista could constitute luxury, calm, and voluptuousness. Another answer is that writing is like breathing – nothing motivates me, or everything does, I write every day. But Undine’s question was about academic writing. I used to write because things were required or due, or because I had something to say to a particular venue. It did not take motivation – it was a habit. Then for some time I really only had comments. I have never liked writing in the hope that it might get me somewhere – after all, where would that be? But my motivation now is that it is going to get me to a specific place. I am not used to this. It is going to take a new version of me to do that, but I can feel it coming on.
Undine’s question led me to think of another: what forms of luxury do I want to reclaim in my life, now that I am living again in a First World country with all sorts of luxuries at my fingertips – luxuries to which I am so accustomed that I do not take advantage of them, despite the fact that this would require no changes to my finances or my carbon imprint? In other words, what luxuries do I have that I am not using, and could?
The answer, I discovered, was flexible scheduling. I remember how I renounced that, slowly, insidiously, working with people who keep factory or administrators’ schedules, working at all normal business hours but then only. Trying to do this when it is not in fact necessary causes me to waste a significant amount of time by inefficiently forcing my organism to a schedule that only seems practical. Before I renounced flexible scheduling, I did one or more of the following in any given week:
+ take a late afternoon off and work in the evening (this is the Mediterranean way, and I promise it gives you more time every day for both work and play)
+ go out on a weeknight and work Saturday night (this emphasizes your creative life and not drudgery)
+ do errands Friday, work Saturday (what is a flexible schedule for if not to free your weekends of errands, so you can enjoy your life)
+ leave work soon after lunch Friday, go to the pool, clean house that afternoon; go out Friday night; go hiking Saturday, work Saturday night and all Sunday, go out Sunday night (this really makes the weekend long).
One of my great-great uncles is supposed to have “revolutionized” factory work in nineteenth century Russia by providing lunch, so that workers “did not have” to go home at midday and could thus leave work at five. I really wonder about the benevolence of the change. Doesn’t it sound as though it would be so the factory could put on another shift?
I any case, I have been very decadent in my more productive periods, going out every night and then typing in cafés all weekend. Under peer pressure I tried to reform and become proper, but it was impractical. I notice that I like to keep hours, but not standard hours. And when I keep the hours invented by myself, I do not waste time or procrastinate. And doing that was something I did when I still felt what I would call normal levels of power and centredness in life. Reclaiming my hours appears to be part of reclaiming the older and newer version of me.
This weblog is changing, although you may not see it as I do since the posts are not posted in real time, or in the order written. But do you notice how I no longer discuss Reeducation? And how the tortured posts have moved on to the next, more difficult topic, academia? I have almost written everything I have to say about that, too. More will be almost redundant, because I could wonder forever what I might have thought or how I might have felt had things been different, or whether I am secretly a real academic. I can always go into many contortions and discuss the things I might do to adapt. And as I said in my great, unfinished novel MADRID, one can say anything about anything in that kind of terrain, since the world is a fabric of dreams which interpret and reinterpret each other. I do not really know but I have the distinct impression that I am going to write a certain book and it is going to get me a job by the sea.
I started the Professor Zero blog with with the intention of posting a poetic fragment each day to invoke Oxalá and the light. I never expected to become so much less cryptic as I was in those days. That is to say, I never expected that I, the author, would join my voice to that of the narrator, Professor Zero – or that I, the scribe, would join my voice to that of the author, Professor Zero. But I, who aspired to rebuild myself from the ground up by writing as Professor Zero, am increasingly located in the streets, in the academic book, and more yet in my great, unfinished novel MADRID. Both of us will still write here, leveling off perhaps in intensity.