Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Getting lost in the creativity of work

Yesterday I looked at the long list of things to do and started to feel overwhelmed.  I wanted them to just be done.  The thought of spending long hours analyzing text and themes did not appeal to me.  Reading about critical discourse analysis, social constructionism and countless studies that need to be found and read to back up my work felt as exciting as someone saying you need to stare at a dot on a wall for 57 hours straight. 

What confused me a bit was that I could feel the dread of this work and simultaneously know that I actually love thinking about these topics.  I find them fascinating.  But other than the intrigue, a roadblock set itself down before me when I tried to think about a larger reason or impact that spending hours and days analyzing the way one newspaper article headline was worded would have on my life, my family, my community and yes, even the world. 

And yet this is the nature of my work, the particular forms of analysis I am interested in...it is sloooooow.  That's the point.  It's not about breadth but depth.  However, there is still the uncomfortable feeling resting beneath that tells me that doing these things can't possibly matter and questions whether it is a waste of time.

But ending on this thought would be devastating and fruitless.

It is not a waste of time because I am realizing it is not just about the task at hand.  Yes, finishing a chapter or a section of a chapter is important.  Getting the reading done is critical, but the process and the time spent being lost in thought--asking new questions, trying to connect the dots in a different way, enjoying the possibilities of what a word or phrase is implying or assuming is absolutely essential.  It is where the creativity of the work is born and allowed to grow into something (potentially) worthwhile.  And if nothing else, allowing the time to think and explore makes for a happy day.  It makes the work fulfilling and enjoyable rather than trying to rush it by to get to the next thing.  It is about living life in the moment and learning that striving for results ruins the here and now, it stunts the growth of what you are doing and turns the focus away from what needs to be learned.

On this note, I've included the following video (I received it in an email from a professor in the Centre for Applied Human Rights here at the University of York)--it's cute and insightful:

So I want to aim to start getting lost in the creativity of the work--allowing time to think and explore and get beyond that "first idea".  This applies to any job I think, and for me I fully intend to use it both at home and at the university: for my parenting, housekeeping, researching and teaching.

I also found this clip helpful.  Dr. Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist and has done research on how to be happy at work.  Here is what he says needs to be done to get there (and it's not about the big careers with lots of glory and rewards...):

Friday, 18 November 2011

On being 30

Last Friday I turned 30.  I think I am okay with this.  In fact, I believe that turning 29 was a bit harder--the last year of my 20s, the end of decade.  Now, I have a clean slate.  The 30s are wide open with possibility and I have just begun.  I remember hearing Joan Anderson (author of the book A Year by the Sea and many others) speak a few years ago and loved her description of each decade being a separate chapter of your life.  I've held onto that metaphor, and have high hopes that this next chapter in my life will be an exciting one.  With that said, I also want to join in on a family trend at the moment where I map out 30 things to do while I'm 30 (for most of the other family members doing this it's actually supposed to be by the time you turn a certain age, but when I decided I was going to do it I only had a week before my birthday and let's face it: 30 additional things to do when you want the items to be interesting and varied is a lot!).

So here's the list (which is subject to edits as time goes along):

1) Dance in the rain (an easy one to start...we are in England after all)
2) Go to the famous Betty's tearoom with Luke
3) Run a road race
4) Attend Wimbledon
5) Publish something (anything!)
6) Go on a family bike (day) trip
7) Make significant headway on my thesis
8) Cook a roast dinner (yes, I still have never done this)
9) Take part in a 24 prayer vigil (rotating turns)
10) Try 5 different types of ethnic cuisine (i.e. Turkish, Morroccan, etc)
11) Read the entire Bible cover to cover
12) Read 5 books by British writers (bonus to then see where they lived!)
13) Hike a mountain (or closest thing to it based on accessibility...i.e. if it is here then maybe a hill)
14) Visit the York Art Gallery
15) Learn/relearn French (or at least some useful phrases)
16) Tour the Jorvik Viking Centre
17) Go out to eat on a date to Cafe Rouge
18) Travel back to the States for a holiday to see family/friends
19) Write more letters to our Compassion children
20) See/visit the lavendar farm just outside of York
21) Sing carols in the Minister
22) Walk all the Roman walls in York
23) Bring Tyler to his first show/kids performance
24) Write a children's story
25) Host a fundraiser
26) Buy a nice bottle of red wine and local cheeses (from Newgate market) to have for an in-house date
27) Come up with 52 in-house dates to do for less than $5
28) Do enough stretching so that I can touch my toes without pain :)
29) Be able to do 20 pushups in a row
30) Come up with a list of 1095 things I am grateful for over the course of the year (the number is assuming an average of 3 per day)

There you have it...a list of 30 things I'd like to do this year (subject to edits!).  And so I am going to sign off and begin: maybe by starting to work on those pushups, or maybe some writing on the children's story, or perhaps the French?  Phew!  It's exhausting just thinking about all there is to do, unless maybe...I've got it! I think I should start with that nice bottle of red and local cheeses?  Hmmm...yes, now that I'm thinking about it...yup, I think that's the one!  Happy Friday!