Category Archives: Theories

How to get a lot written at a teaching and service oriented institution

When I was a new assistant professor, starting the first day and lasting until Reeducation, I had an amount and kind of teaching and service that professors at R1 institutions do not dream of and especially, do not dream of not having the option of saying no to. I, as a student from such an institution, could hardly believe it, either, but it was true.

My house was broken into four times the first semester and every time my briefcases, with all relevant textbooks in them, were among the items stolen.  The college did not like me, or my dissertation director, or the Emeritus Professor, and I did not like the college or relate to its mission; this situation was stressful to say the least.

I got quite a lot published in those years and here is how I did it:

* every weekday morning, write one page in my manuscript before doing anything else
* Monday through Thursday evenings, read one fairly randomly chosen, yet interesting journal article before doing anything else
* take Friday evening off — go out dancing, or in general do something non-genteel — and sleep as late as I wanted Saturday mornings
* Saturdays drive in to the library at the county R1, see what I might find in the stacks, walk around, breathe free air, do something cultural (a concert, a gallery) or natural (the late afternoon beach)
* Sunday mornings admire the things garnered from the library; Sunday afternoons write two to five pages; Sunday evenings do something cultural (a concert, a film)

I did this because it was how I had done things in graduate school and college, and to some extent even earlier. Notice that it gave time to write between seven and ten finished pages every week, suckas, and that I was swimming almost a mile every day after work, and people said I was “eating like a man” and “looking too well to be working hard enough,” and they were fools. It is why, in the present afterlife, when people suggest to me that Robert Boice’s research and writing advice is all I need, I hit the roof.

In one sense they are right. When Reeducation revealed its program I hesitated because it meant replacing research and writing time with Reeducative activities, and also because I could see that this program for alleged health was destructive, of careers most obviously but of personhood in the end. I did not know Boice or his work but had he known me and my methods, he would have approved. Once I had destroyed the person who could implement the Boicean or any other such strategies, however, I needed something else. As I patiently explained to those who asked, although I was not believed.

This is why I find it so maddening when people say to just implement the Boicean strategies. These are about planning a work day — they do not cover everything. In the meantime I do recommend the schedule outlined above to everyone, including myself, this year.



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Was it the kernel…?

“You should not be doing research.”

“Your research identity is proof of your failure as a person.”

I should have just laughed but I was terrified and wanted to disappear.

It is a not good idea to look into this abyss but I carry so much pain in me all the time.

(I have also just seen that I am about as codependent a person as there can be.)

And avoidant, it is downright pathological, it has been going on for years and it is painful.The idea of being permanently dependent because of not being valid enough to stand on my own is the wound I have from childhood and it is what I would like to heal.

I do not want to feel this way, or think about feeling this way, or SPEND TIME AND ENERGY ON IT, any more. I think I torture myself by trying to figure it out and that it does not help.

At the same time HOW can I get my concentration back, how can I stop spending so much time frozen in pain and fear? How can I heal this … treat myself like a valuable person … stand in the center of my life, in the light as this weblog used to say?


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Ya lo he dicho

You have to be in a position to be calm and comfortable and keep a clear head. No writing or efficiency advice works if you do not establish this first. It is trickier than one would think and I did not know this before I first lost this kind of situation — did not know what it was like not to have it.

There are various resources you need, material and psychic, to have it. This knowledge is why my writing advice is apparently unlike everyone else’s writing advice.



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A clear mind

I am still thinking about these posts on motivation. What do you need to move forward? Not technique by this time, or interest in project — technique helps and some level of interest is needed, but the fundamental need is peace of mind. You need a clear head. You need to be comfortable enough. You need a strong enough ego to consider that your hunches could be right.

I in particular need to stop thinking that it is technique or discipline I lack (although it is more research time and a narrower set of tasks I need, and although I know that it was when I renounced some research time for Reeducation that my task list broadened). So yes, I need to take more research time and make deeper use of it. But more fundamentally I think the kind of academic advice I need is different, for Vichy State and other things:

The first group practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and qigong practices to hone mental focus. The second received instructions on curbing negative thoughts, practicing gratitude and reclaiming an aspect of adult life.

In the mindfulness group, for instance, they were told to bring a moment-to-moment awareness to a daily activity like chopping vegetables. An assignment in the positive development group might entail taking a “guilt inventory” to assess if your guilt is healthy or counterproductive.

[Participants] learned ways to tackle their distress as problems arise. The idea is to stop wasting energy…

(Those were techniques of “denial” in Reeducation, but Reeducation was wrong.)




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Extrinsic and intrinsic

I was happy today because work was going well. I have been impaired for so long I barely know what this is like. It is another planet.

In the meantime I was meditating on this post and thread. I could repeat various points. If desire were enough, it would also be true that hard work was enough to make you rich. Yes, people do in fact need information and ideas on how to do things. Some strains of academic advice are pointless or miss the point (my original interest in the post, and in the post it discusses).

But I am primarily interested in the question of “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” reasons for doing things. Should one do things for some form of gain, or do them for themselves in a very pure way? Where does the border between intrinsic and extrinsic lie? Are we not all actually located in their overlapping? I am as committed to field as anyone, although perhaps differently so.

I really am research first. I want, and always wanted research and writing in a town with libraries, archives and cultural life, and a harrassment-free workplace. I would change fields to get this. That scandalizes people since it means the field, the specific discovery, is not the “instrinsic” reward I seek–it is the activity itself, the atmosphere, I want. Am I more “extrinsically” motivated, then, than is meet?

(Yes — because these motivations do not fit the US academic model, they fit the think-tank or journalistic or other models. At the same time, I would never have understood all of these things had I happened to always work at a place like USP. Then I would think I was suited to academia in a seamless way.)

(I am efficient and if anything too fast; I am research first; I have administrative talent and do not oppose “service.” This is why all the coaxing to work daily and more quickly, and put research higher on the agenda that many seem to need are destructive, not helpful for me. It is not that I am anti-teaching, I am good at it, find it interesting, and believe it should be done well, but one thing I do NOT need is to be reminded that teaching is only one par of the job. Also notice how I do not say I MUST have a teaching job–I say I MUST have a research job. This seems to be a great difference between me and most academics.)

HEART OF POST: I do notice, though, that when I have gotten stuck on things the issue is always that, for “extrinsic” reasons, I am trying to make an argument I do not really support (utter lack of “intrinsic” reason), or I am trying to rush something along (insufficient emphasis on intrinsic reason). I notice further that while my actual motivations are almost entirely intrinsic, my training is to ignore these reasons almost entirely and focus on the extrinsic — one is working to survive.

(Although I have also always said that if survival is the only reason to do things, then we can just work in a bank. This observation is considered scandalous by many academics. I think it is considered scandalous because their actual attitude is closer to that of a bank worker than they want to admit.)

Intrinsic: as Amálio and I said back then, we got into this to have fun. Or is that extrinsic? Fun involves learning words, saying things, and drawing pictures, I said when very young. Later I said it was seeing research happen, considering its meaning, doing some of one’s own, making hypotheses, combing through documents, contemplating fascinating statements, having odd adventures while finding the places where the documents lay, and writing prose. Are these extrinsic or intrinsic motivations and if the result is not that one gets to continue, or the cost is too high in some way, did one lack “intrinsic” motivation in the first place? No, and that is why I think we are all located in the overlap.

So intrinsic to me does not mean that one expects no “reward.” It does mean that one must not relinquish integrity or voice. Those are the basic elements, without which all organization falls apart and all strategies and methods of work management fail.




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To do

This article; the syllabi; the LASA2015 abstract; the grading; the parking permit.

In the fall: the other article.

It is strange no longer to collude in my own oppression but I appear to be achieving this. I will become stronger still.

The very worst aspect of working at our place is the way we are undermined by the administration and used to undermine each other. I will guard against this.



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So it is going now, and I am becoming one with this project. Whole. The image of jumping off into a project does not work for me. I decided it was not a question of jumping off, but of drawing things toward me.

You have to think in terms of integration and love, not alienation, rubrics, duty. That is my academic advice.



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That work allergy

I do not think it is lack of interest, much though I have tried to claim over the past twenty years that it is. And true as it is that I have other interests that could be professional interests, interests I feel I could pursue with greater happiness and success because they are in fields less fraught for me and also more open to me. But once again, I do not think my academic problem is lack of interest.

It is, rather, the sensation of having been imprisoned and having the jailers use me work, which they have appropriated, to beat me with. One can defend against that perverse use of one’s work by saying one has lost interest in it. But this explanation is not satisfactory as it is inaccurate. More accurately, that work needs to be rescued from its glass case (they have used it as an instrument of torture but really it is the Sleeping Beauty).

And yes, one has the power. One forgets but one has it, and that is why this weblog was conceived of as insurgent: Sandinista, Zapatista, Freirista. And I see now more clearly than ever why I dislike academic advice. It not only assumes one does not know what one is doing or that one is not actually interested in what one is doing — it also ignores what is the heart of the matter for very many of us.

The issue is not not knowing what one is doing or not being interested in what one is doing or not being willing to sacrifice for what one has decided to do. It is having work stolen and competence seen as a liability. It is having been told repeatedly that one is not authorized to do this. It is not for you, you are not invited, you will never make it…

There is no amount of discipline or “time management” that will have its desired effect if you have been convinced you either are not competent or should not be, and that your work either is not yours or should not be. There are also no medications or rest cures to cure this problem. It has to be named and recognized to be countered. I oppose academic advice because it is so often deployed and also constructed to interdict such naming. It comes not to clarify but to cloud vision.

I resist and fear not the work itself but the officious advice that surrounds it. I do not need exhortations to rush or other warnings of the various sorts one gets. I need to remember that I am in fact authorized to do what I am doing, and to use my time doing it.

Sondé miroir, O Legba. We are all great sacrificers and penitents.



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Esto es significativo

¿Maras, hambre, ignorancia? Los niños trabajadores y abandonados de América central salen a correr al “país del nunca jamás” guiados por esa especie de sombra impuesta por el norte sobre el sur de nuestra América, con su manera de susurrar que el único camino a la vida mejor es la renuncia a la dignidad.

This is quite an interesting comment on the United States, values here, what it means to be a person here.



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L’été, ou l’appétit vient en mangeant

1. Now it is summer. I am still trying to relearn the self-care I renounced for Reeducation. I am trying to do this every day. I am also noticing how much more relaxing reading is than watching film, and how much more restful actual books are than anything one can read on a device.

2. Self-care involves not being required, and thence attempting to become another person for the sake of survival. It also means recognizing the toxicity of a certain environment and not allowing it to engage one in any of the many ways it can. Self-care means remembering one has rights and also might be right about some things. It means remembering to pay attention to the people who like one’s work. It means remembering that those who believe in pointless sacrifice have lost their power.

3. I would rather be going to this conference but I have to work. I would like to be pursuing cold cases from the civil rights movement or, if I had actually become the environmental lawyer I had wanted to be in high school, filing suit against the tar sands project. I wanted a high level career and if I could have had that in the arts and humanities, and if there were not so much other urgent work that needed doing, I would have been satisfied.

4. But in fact I work at a lower level. For that to be interesting and worth sacrificing for, I would have to be working on one of the projects I consider urgent. Then I would not be frustrated or bored. I would not feel so much longing, and things would have meaning. I would not feel that I was “fiddling while Rome burns.” It would be easier to concentrate since I would be doing what want to do, as opposed to do something else while trying to suppress my actual interests.

5. Nonetheless l’appétit vient en mangeant. There is a lot else to do and even if I would rather do the things that seem actually urgent to me, we will all try to do the things we have to do with love.

6. Yesterday in the café an old man came up and said I should be a simultaneous interpreter, I had rare skills. Thinking about this I saw how true it was. I thought of pursuing that as a young person but it was not ambitious enough, I did not want to simply speak others’ words. I see now that it would be more like working magic, and that it fits me in more ways than I realized then. And I would live in a city, make enough to live on, see interesting people and discuss interesting things … and might have more time for political work as well.

7. So is my lack of pleasure in the work I do have — more interesting in itself, por cierto, than simultaneous interpretation — a lack of interest, as I claim it is? Or is it a symptom of disinvestment in self? Or is it an allergy to my working conditions? I think it has been all of these, but is primarily the first. I am not even very deeply interested in foreign languages. They are my superpower, as it were, something I can wield, but not my goal.

8. But once again, l’appétit vient en mangeant. There is a lot to do here and even if I would rather do the things that seem actually urgent to me, I will try to do all things we have to do with love.

9. A social worker asked me about my mother’s life while she was dying and her comment was that it sounded like a life not lived. I disagreed, but thought the statement applied more accurately to me. I renounced my life when I went to Reeducation, and I have never fully managed to step out of the grave.

10. I will use this as a mantra, I think: vos podés estar en el lugar que te proponés. It is what someone said. It is unrealistic but not as unrealistic as the dicta I bowed to, namely, you should not be this happy, or this successful.




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