brilliant advice…

from Graham:

Anything that helps you be productive should be treated as holy. What that may be differs for each of us. For me, it’s long multi-volume history books, as well as certain public sites that have been “lucky” places for me for thinking and working– the now-closed Café Trevi on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, a specific cybercafe near Russell Square in London that still exists, etc. I do recommend treating these sorts of lucky rituals and places with a near-religious awe, because humans are all constantly within inches of turning into sulky, embittered procrastinators and aggressive resenters of the productive and the fulfilled. But you have to find your own holy places and holy relics. (OOP)

This is both brilliant advice, as well as utterly painful for me to read. While living in Nottingham for my MA I did most of my ‘good’ work at one of the many mellow pubs or cafes in the city. On moving to Dundee to start my PhD I figured I’d be able to do the same and find a few places possessing that certain ‘energy’ allowing me to work. Sadly, there is not even a shred of ‘cafe culture’ in this city, and the pubs are not the type of pubs that are used to people coming in mid-day with a stack of books under their arm. (A stack of alcoholism, maybe…)

Thus, I’ve been doing most of my outlining/writing in the small library cafe, and taking advantage of St. Andrews, which is right across the river, and being filled with mostly American and English students it has great cafes where you can buy one cup of coffee and sit for a couple hours comfortably working away. Although at times pretentious, at least St. Andrews ‘feels’ academic, and it’s not hard to walk into a pub and find an awkard looking academic with a pint of ale and a book.

Regardless, great advice.

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5 thoughts on “brilliant advice…

  1. Ben Kautzer says:

    It makes me happy to hear that you’ve taken up a degree of residence at St. Andrews. You ought to invest in a “Historic Scotland” pass (or whatever it’s called) and do your reading in the ruined castle. That’ll get your mental juices flowing.

    Come now, let’s be honest. Most of your best work at Nottingham happened but a few feet from me. Coincidence? I think not. Want proof? I’ve not had a meaningful thought since you’ve left my life. True story. Holy places? Holy relics? I think it’s all about presence.

    The good news is that I’ll be back in your neck of the woods in a matter of weeks!

  2. Alex says:

    I wish I could do this, but I always feel mega awkward sitting a cafes, and never know how much coffee I have to buy without taking the piss out of the owners. So even if I intend to work in a cafe, I end up leaving pretty quickly.

  3. michaeloneillburns says:

    Alex,
    I feel like the general rule of thumb is that one cup of coffee buys you at least an hour, and drinking slow always helps. On top of that, if the cafe isn’t busy, then you have to figure you’re being there causes no harm, and if anything, helps the business by giving the appearance that customers actually want to hang out there. I always found, at least in Nottingham, that doing this is on weekends is another story, as the influx of weekend shoppers stoping in makes sitting and reading much too awkward.

  4. Grant says:

    I miss Lee Rosy’s.

  5. Well, you seem to have no problem writing this blog, which is excellent by the way. Even we established academics and writers have problems sitting down and writing (why do you think I am writing this instead of the 3 books and 12 articles I am contracted to do!?) I like Zizek’s approach. As he says, he hates writing, so what he does is make notes and then edits them. OK, this may explain the chaotic nature of some of his work, but it works. The only secret to writing is to write. To paraphrase Kleist, we only work out what we have to say about something by saying it.
    Peter

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