I’m an academic and I get paid to be a thinker. I get paid to perform other identities as well, and as I type this I can see, sitting at the edges of the page, shadows from these others, which I try to block out.
While I’m down here at the coast (for three days this week and then three days again next week), I manage to ignore the shadows for long stretches of time, and I just think. I write, read, walk and cook, and all the while I watch thoughts rise to the surface, or make new connections between thoughts and projects, or write to colleagues so that I can fix these thoughts in my increasingly leaky mind.
Yesterday morning, I planned my reading for the day. Orange post-it notes, each with the title of an article or a book chapter, sat next to my computer. There were six of them.
I opened the first article on my computer. Understanding it was a struggle, and after a while I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. I had a nap, then went for a walk wondering what the point of the article had been. When I got back to the house, I wrote an email to a colleague about the struggle, and then scrunched up the corresponding post-it. I didn’t think it was an article for me, but then saw in my inbox a response from my colleague about how stimulated she had been by it. I went back to the beach and, as I walked, I found myself thinking more about the article’s central idea.
Suddenly, a number of untethered drifty thoughts began to move into relationship. I read some more of Maxine Green’s Releasing the imagination and typed up passages. I picked up William Pinar’s What is Curriculum Theory and discovered new thoughts and connections. I remembered an image that had come to me last week, an image that seemed in some enticing way to be unconsciously making links between different research projects.
The five remaining orange post-it notes sit next to the computer, the articles unread; my thoughts have led elsewhere. This afternoon I’m going to re-read the article that gave me such trouble yesterday.
This kind of work is so pleasurable, and so necessary. It doesn’t happen except when I give myself lots of time just to think.