There’s always a risk in recommending books. In a way, you’re recommending yourself, your taste.
–Ann Patchett, from her blog
“People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security and about love, the way others do?
They ask it accusingly, as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.
The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.”
MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me
I am really trying to become more efficient.
Because when I get real honest with myself, I have not been very efficient about a lot of things. My thesis, for one, which should be done already, but also everything else–grad school, laundry, shopping, bill paying, work. I am highly prone to distraction, and then everything else seems to tumble around that and happen in haphazard, unpredictable ways. I accomplish stuff, sure. But it feels like it happens by accident rather than design most of the time.
So, for the last week or so, I’ve been actively trying to reduce the distractions. I read an article recently that said while we fool ourselves into thinking we are being efficient by multitasking, we actually are training ourselves to be distracted and that everything we work on suffers for it. I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon so quickly, or take things at face value so easily, but something about this idea resonated with me because I could almost feel it playing out in my life.
So, I have been on a mission to cut out the extraneous. I’m slowly unsubscribing to all the crap email I get. I’m going through my Google Reader feeds and asking myself, “Does this blog actually bring anything to my life?” If it’s a no, it gets trashed. Do I really need to read i09 AND Blastr? No, they just repeat each other, pick the one you like and move on. I’m trying to arrange my grocery list by the geography of the store so I don’t get all the way to the dairy section and realize I forgot bananas back in produce and have to trek back across the store. I’m trying to be methodical about laundry, actually putting it away when it comes out of the dryer instead of letting it sit draped over a chair until I get around to hanging stuff up (which has typically been when I would have a momentary meltdown of OH MY GOD THIS PLACE IS CLUTTERED).
Biggest off all, when I am working on something (namely, the thesis, or a project for work, or even reading), I have been turning off email and turning off my internet browser. DUUUUUDE. The enormity of the huge difference this is making is ineffable. If the mail icon in my dashboard lights up red, I MUST CHECK IT NOW. And usually it’s some random email list (hence the glut of unsubscribing), but that then sucks me down the rabbit hole of, “Hey! What’s happening on teh interwebz?” And before I know it, I’ve wasted 10 minutes and lost all sense of momentum.
Turning these things off has really highlighted to me just HOW distracted I have been, because my inclination every 8 minutes is to click over and check Reader or Boing Boing or Twitter. But since my browser isn’t open, I stop myself and reorient myself to the task. And honestly, it is doing a world of good for my brainspace. I feel more coherent, more focused, and more of the moment, not distracted and scattered and a big hot mess. Can you retrain your brain?
I’m damn sure trying.
I want to be more like this, more of the moment, more aware of what I am doing, not spread thinly across all sorts of stuff like not enough icing for the whole cake. (Bad metaphor. But hopefully you get my drift.)
I want to spend time with my husband and actually be present rather than having a zillion other thoughts winging through my head. I want to eat dinner at the table, not in front of the TV, aware of the meal, not just mindlessly consuming. I want to be more efficient at work, more put together, more attentive to detail. I want to live a more mindful life.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ve actually taken a step toward that. Optimism isn’t usually like me, but I really do sort of feel optimistic.
It is both disconcerting and kind of nice.
I almost feel like a real scholar…
…and I say that because I just received an email from a publisher wanting to publish a paper I delivered at PCA in April.
Except it’s not a legit publisher, it’s one of those “open access” vanity journal things (see list here), and for a publisher wanting to print an essay of mine whose requirements include:
2. Manuscripts may be 3000-8000 words or longer if approved by the editor, including an abstract, texts, tables, footnotes, appendixes, and references. All of these must be write in APA format. The title should not be exceeding 15 words, and abstract should not be exceeding 400 words.
…well… yeah. Won’t be jumping up and down over that one.
But it almost makes me feel like a real academic, getting spammed at that way.
What can I say? It’s the little things.
Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I both hate and I love. Why would I do this, you may ask?
I know not, but I feel it as it happens, and it crucifies me.
There is a reason I have this tattooed on myself.
I just saw this on a totally hipster local website:
“this willie” said it best:
This is a fascinating–and appalling–look at the way Oxford University Press is now treating academics’ work–not as the intellectual property of the author, but as the Press’s to do with whatever they like. This is important reading.
And this article on the poverty-level pay of most adjunct positions–and the MLA taking notice of the issue–is pretty requisite reading.
Also, unrelatedly, I highly recommend Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, with the always marvelous Joss Whedon-favorite Alan Tudyk. It’s a hilarious example of playing with classic horror tropes and audience expectations. And includes the line, “You’re half-hillbilly!”, which I find hysterical. Of course, I am too.