Reading to write

I found Adam Grant's interview with Christopher Nolan (director, screenwriter and producer, most recently of Dunkirk) to be fascinating. Some of Nolan's words of wisdom could just as easily apply to academic writing:

  • "I don't fret about what I've done in a particular day as long as I've made progress by the end of the week." 
This is something I need to remind myself of, because I have a tendency to feel like I've fallen off the track if a day goes badly, even if the rest of the week went well. That perspective isn't doing me any favors, so I'd like to shift to measuring progress in the longer term rather than daily.
  • On rejection: "You have to cross into this world of just pleasing yourself, just doing something because you want to do it...At the end of the day, all you really have is your own belief, your own passion. You can't ignore the feedback. But you tell the story because you love it." 
At the end of the day, passion is the driver for the work, and this is so important to realize especially when you're facing down a rejection. You want to cultivate an ability to listen to your passionate voice even more at that moment of rejection and let it dictate what happens next.
  • "If you're going to write, you want to read a lot before you write, without any purpose...Just being open to things that might inspire you -- and staying open." 
This last quote reminds me just how connected writing and reading are. I'm not one of those academics who subscribes to tables of contents emails for my favorite journals because I don't want to have all those extra emails to sift through. But reading and writing are deeply connected and I forget how important it is to read more "without any purpose." I'm not signing up for the emails anytime soon, but I will dedicate some time every week to enjoying guilt-free academic reading. 

I often feel guilty when I spend time reading because it feels like it is taking away from writing time, but the truth is, we can't write without reading anyway. I love Notorious Ph.D's idea of "Weekend Stockpiling," reading and taking notes over the weekend so that she's ready to write on Monday morning. I spend a lot of my dedicated writing time doing reading and note-taking where I should just be writing, and it seems like a great idea to carve out separate reading time both for more targeted reading and reading a lot "without any purpose." 

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