Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Creative Unproductivity

A terrific post today on New APPS, from the always-interesting Helen De Cruz, on the value of unstructured time for academic creativity.

I tell my students: Spend half your time reading what everyone else is reading, and spend half your time reading what no one else is reading (Icelandic folk stories, in De Cruz's example). For the latter especially, trust your dorky sense of fun, not some crabbed and conventional notion of what is productive. It will broaden and energize you, and unexpected avenues will open.


Scott Bakker said...

"But don't forget, the over-production of graduates and the rationalization of tenure track positions means that attaining your lifelong dream of being a philosophy professor requires..."

It took me *years* to remember how to relax after graduate school, and I still regard it as one of the most psychologically unhealthy (as well as exciting!) episodes in my life. My guess is that when you begin instrumentalizing things like 'intellectual play' you're probably already too late. Scarcity drives competition drives singleminded pursuits. In my case it was too much philosophy (leading to an episode where I almost vomited on The Phenomenology) that sent me back to my pregraduate scribbling, and an entirely different rat race scramble!

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I agree, Scott. Many or maybe most scholars, myself included, by the time they get through the process of PhD and tenure, have to remind themselves of the value of play before they can really play without a goal in mind, in a guilt-free way.