How to work and live

Everyone advises and pontificates, and what they say is wrong from the point of view of anyone with any discipline, any hedonism, any love for life and any sophistication. So I will give the anti advice.

Advice: don’t read, write. Truth: reading is research. Do not try to produce without doing research.

Advice: only work is important, it matters not where you live. Truth: it does. Live where you like and how you like, and change jobs to do it.

Advice: only academic jobs are worth doing. Truth: they are not. Most academic jobs are like K-12 or community college jobs, not like the jobs your professors have. If you want a job like theirs and do not have it in academia, you should work for a research organization, go into publishing, things like that.

Advice: work is not really important, living and surviving and having Fun are. Truth: if you got into this kind of work, then yes work is important. It is the most important thing after setting, pleasure, love. Do not let people tell you otherwise — don’t let them tell you that it is “perfectionistic” to be interested in your best work, for instance.

Advice: House cleaning and yard work are forms of procrastination — like so many other basic activities. Truth: They are not. They come first. Just because you are a professor does not mean you do not deserve a pleasant and calm environment.

Advice: When you work, set timers and rush. Truth: If that is how you feel, perhaps you would prefer to get onto an assembly line. I keep track of time, of course, but I have a clock, not a timer; I am not an oven.


One thought on “How to work and live

  1. There is an angry version of this post, below, but it seems ruminating and old. I have realized, though, that I would be quite happy in my job were I another person with other priorities, and that that person is even valuable here. I should just be her, that is to say me. But here is the other version of this post:

    Everything that is said to professors assumes that they barely made it through graduate school, which they looked upon as a necessary evil toward a teaching position in a college. Now they want to teach and maintain a suburban house, and they must publish to maintain this position. Publishing is onerous. They can do it, though, if they force themselves and set a timer to 25 minutes a day.

    This life does not seem grim to them because they really want to live in a suburb and teaching is the only thing they can see themselves doing. I know people like that; there are many instructors who are like that. They are happy.

    Some professors are like that, but have to do research and so feel grim. But really a professor is not that, it is a person more like an artist or a lawyer, someone with many skills who does not need to be disciplined or learn discipline. They need to live in good soil and maintain themselves like flowers. That is how you, O professor, can be the kind of person advanced students need to meet, and who has the kind of current knowledge advanced students need.

    Even if you do not have advanced students, it is still false that research is meaningless, or that “one more article on Jane Austen” is not needed. Your research is you and is in you, and it is what makes you you; do not be persuaded to give it up or sacrifice it for the alleged good of the institution or the students.

    Again, do not listen to advisors. They assume you do not want research on your agenda and you must be forced to put it there. They are either really bad professors, or they are professors accursed with really bad students.

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