Friday, September 01, 2006

if only it was all downhill

Some famous writer--I forget whom--said that he would quit writing when he was on a roll. When he was trying to write and having trouble, he would stick with it, because then when he started again he would be just as stuck. Instead, he would stick with it until he managed to work through whatever and then when finally things got going, he would stop.

A woman I went to graduate school with had a sign on her bulletin board that said "PARK ON A DOWNHILL." This apparently is a key piece of advice from How To Write Your Dissertation In Fifteen Minutes A Day. The idea is that you should make sure to end work with a clearly defined idea of what you are going to do when you start work again. That way, when you start work, you don't sit there and try to figure out what you are supposed to be doing, which can take hours or, for more than one person I went to graduate school with, the better part of your twenties. I have been trying to do more parking on a downhill lately. I feel instead like someone who stumbles hungover and hopelessly-late into his driveway in the morning only to be reminded that he had boozily smashed his car into the garage door the night before.

8 comments:

Lucy said...

I know the feeling. That's a great description, but I'm sorry it fits.

RPS said...

Sometimes (i.e., when I am focused and organized), just before I leave my computer, I write myself a note with instructions about what to do/where to begin the following day. This seems to reduce the amount of time I spend in the morning writing email, reading the NY Times online, etc. while trying to remember what to do/where to begin.

On car talk, of a sort - have you noticed that molecular biologists (perhaps life scientists more generally?) are masters of the car-as-metaphor genre? It's often how they translate their science for "lay" audiences (including curious social scientists). Of course, because my grasp of molecular biology is actually better than my knowledge of automobiles, I usually end up learning more about cars than genetics by way of these analogies...

Tom Volscho said...

Thanks for the tips.

jeremy said...

RPS: Sounds like a good system. But I haven't noticed the car as metaphor thing.

Lars said...

I wrote a paper, which I am trying (desperately?) to get published about mechanics. I don't run with biologists too often, but I would argue that the metaphor works both ways: mechanics understand cars (and describe cars) more like organic bodies than machines. (Of course, like all metaphors, this will break down at some points). The ubiquitous tension between custonmer and mechanic can, in my mind, be traced back to this fundamental difference in understanding what a car is, over the straight up fraud we suspect of mechanics (altho' yes, fraud does happen too).

(I hope the sacred blind review process hasn't now been undermined.)

sozlog said...

this is how times change. a while ago they sold books entitled "how to survive your dissertation", and now they tell you how to do it in 15 minutes a day ...

Absolut said...

Why is it "I forget whom", why isn't it simply "I forget who"?

jeremy said...

I presume it's whom because I'd say "I forget him" and not "I forget he" if I was writing the equivalent sentence but completing it with he/him (or she/her, they/them).