Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Getting rid of some things, mostly ideas

It's fall and time to shed some things, mostly ideas.

1.The idea that computer tech is necessary, as A. O. Scott reminds  in the New York Times:

When you’re not reviewing movies, are there any tech products you are currently obsessed with?
A few years ago, when I was struggling to finish writing a book, I decided I needed to tune out the distractions of Twitter and email and New York Times news alerts so that I could make my daily word count. I started leaving the house for a few hours with no laptop or phone — just a ballpoint pen and a 5-by-7-inch notebook, the same setup I’d been using for years to take notes in dark theaters.

2.  The idea of showing up for every single thing when some of my colleagues don't bother. There are no consequences for not showing up or rewards for showing up except the glow of being a good citizen. I'll still mostly show up, because good citizenship, but it's the parable of the vineyard all over again, and no matter how many times that's been explained to me, I still don't buy the logic.

3. The idea that good researchers can't be good teachers. According to the NYTimes, the United States has only one university--Harvard--and the sum of all college experiences is broadcast through its graduates, so no need for actual reporting. The latest piece in this vein is from Adam Grant. I'm a decent researcher and a good teacher, and I remain excited about both, so I'm stacking my anecdata against Grant's and declaring this idea a sheddable one.

4. Better yet, the idea that great writers don't have dogs. Apparently it's not because they keep writers from making paragraph breaks, although you could understand if Knausgaard made that charge, but because dogs distract writers, as evidenced by the many personal experiences that Knausgaard relates. This paragraph didn't have the intended effect of making me think about the idea; rather, I too want to put down a lot of my personal experiences and have The New Yorker pay me for them.

5. The idea that generational labels have meaning. Stop it. If I hear one more time about boomers doing this or Gen X doing that or millennials being poor because of avocado toast (hint: try the student loan crisis and a gig economy), I might have to throw something--or, more likely, roll my eyes. It's an extremely lazy way of making large generalizations, and it's not helpful.

6. This is sort of inspired by Dame Eleanor's posts about keeping or not keeping things from her mother's house, but getting rid of what you don't use feels good, and so does taking pleasure in things that you do have. Those hardwood floors that caused a month of disruption last year make me happy every day, but so does getting rid of things. Growing up, my mother (like Dame Eleanor's) made a big fuss about collecting antiques, silver, etc. But honestly, how many embroidered bridge table cloths or tea sets does one non-bridge player need? Instead of thinking of it as "getting rid of" something, I'm thinking of it as "rehoming" them by sending them to whatever charities are sending their trucks by that week. Someone's going to think it's a treasure, and imagining that is more pleasing than my wondering what on earth I'm ever going to do with them.