Today was one of those days where I woke up wanting more. It was one of those days where I asked myself what was next. Some of that was about figuring out a really hard problem to tackle and really sinking my time and energy into finding a resolution. Part of it has been about moving beyond the daily grind of things that happen in a series vs. things that make a dent in the universe. The second question in that statement is much harder to achieve and rarely even attempted. We have to dig in and pick fights with the hardest problems. Standing down is not the way to figure out how to push past the edge of what is possible.
This week should prove to be very interesting. Today for the first time in a long time my thoughts aligned on what it means to be a good academic. Accepting that writing a paper every 4 months is the minimum standard to publishing or at least writing 3 solid papers a year. You might think that sounds pretty basic and that accepting that would be easy enough to achieve. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It has not been the case and it is only sort of becoming the case right now. Last year based on my personal standard for writing, I was not a well behaved academic writer. Sure I wrote a ton of words and some of them were interesting. More of those words should have been devoted to academic purposes. This will be the year that I get back on track. It should be easy.
Within the realms of my imagination writing remains one of the noblest pursuits. Maybe within the harsh light our reality writing would not be considered noble. That question does not need to be debated at the moment. Like most days recently my interests have been focused on recovering from a cold. One of the insights that occurred during my sleepless nights was a rather simple observation. I realized that it might be time to return to writing in the original style of this functional journal. A style of writing that involves my observations and a little bit of information about my day.
For better or worse the fine art of noodling on a page needs to be a large part of my day. That will have to involve spending more time writing. More or less it will involve producing prose just like this on a series of different days and posting it online. Thinking about writing opens the door to looking at Chromebooks online. My original ASUS Flip works just fine. I know that it works just fine, but for some reason I keep wanting to replace it with a newer model. That endless search for new technology always seems to be a part of my process. It always seems to happen.
Writing academic papers and making academic contributions should really take up more of my time. That is something that gets easier and easier to ignore every year. A seemingly relentless need to write strikes me from time to time. During that window I have to produce something useful. That does not always happen. Sometimes distractions slow me down or sometimes my attention gets focused on something that simply does not deliver. My new strategy to avoid false starts and to otherwise lean into them involves dragging my Chromebook around with me to write within a moment of notice.
Opportunities abound. We elect to turn most of them down on a daily basis. My theory on working on one thing into the next is rather simple. I focus on being positive and moving forward. Within that general focus I recognize that we have the opportunity to pick up different things and work on them. That chance to decide what to do next is very important. It might be watching Jim Carrey in the 2008 film Yes Man or it could be reading about the life and times of famed mathematician Paul Erdos. Either way the protagonist moved from one thing to the next. One of them with more of a purpose. Motivation remains a hard topic to address. For most people it changes from day to day and potentially from moment to moment. I tend to think about wanting to make a lasting contribution to the academy as something that has motivated me to push things forward. That is probably why i have spent so much time learning and writing over the last two decades.