Monday, February 25, 2008

Jogging and Blogging

Progress in the arts depends on discipline and repetition. The essential thing is to set up a program that gives you relevant experiences on a regular basis. It is only in the context of such discipline that instruction (i.e., a teacher) can help.

And such mastery has two important components: skill and strength. In the latter I include endurance. (I'm just thinking out loud here; it's not a fully developed theory; there may be other essential components of mastery.)

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be trying a new regimen. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I will blog as usual. That means writing for about an hour between six and seven in the morning. Friday's post will continue to be a reflection on that week's webcast.

But on Tuesday's and Thursday's I am going to go for a jog instead of sitting down at the machine with a cup of coffee. In the park, I will try to compose a little aphorism or epigram: a little bit of wisdom, if you will. I will post it when I get back from my run.

Readers of the blog should experience this as an oscillation between longer and shorter posts. I'll keep it going throughout March and April before assessing the results. I'm calling this program "Jogging and Blogging", of course.

In fact, I often compare writing to physical exercise. While jogging arguably requires little skill, it does require a combination of muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. It is only within a regular program of exercise that you can callibrate these two things.

You have to set up a realizable program that forces you to run a certain distance on a regular basis. (My program also includes a longer run before lunch on Saturdays.) While you should pay attention to your body's real needs, of course, a program gives you critical distance to its whims and caprices, its flashes of excessive zeal and habitual patterns of laziness. (Yes, we're talking mostly about my body there; the distribution of pattern and flash may be different for you.) Given too much freedom, how you feel at the moment will drive you either too hard or not hard enough.

Like I say, progress in the arts also requires a program, a regime of discipline and repetition. So does the daily practice of an art at a high level. It is necessary to think about your program especially if you have many different responsibilities in your working life. The teaching, adminstrative and research functions of most academics often interfere with each other. It is easy to misinterpret this as "not having enough time" for writing. (That's like saying "I couldn't make it up the hill this morning.")

My advice is to protect your writing time by making it a permanent, recurring, regular part of your academic practice. When writing, write for the sake of writing. Write because you planned to write, not because you have something to say. (But do plan to have something to say over the long term.) When jogging, run just to, yes, do it—not because you have to be somewhere. Obviously, you get much more out of it than that. But these results don't have to be obvious to you every morning.

Before I sign off, let me draw your attention to the very useful new label on Jonathan's Mayhew's blog: "scholarly writing". Always worth reading.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

nThanks for the plug. I also use excercise as an analogy for writing. Great minds think alike! I also think of practicing a musical instrument along similar lines.