Monday, December 6, 2010

"Victor Hugo would write naked..."

There are so many great quotes in this article I had to post it up.

Later: What We can Learn from Procrastination

Akerlof, who became one of the central figures in behavioral economics, came to the realization that procrastination might be more than just a bad habit. He argued that it revealed something important about the limits of rational thinking.
What's fascinating is that I actually rarely procrastinate, if you define procrastination as this guy does:

Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off. In other words, if you’re simply saying “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” you’re not really procrastinating. Knowingly delaying because you think that’s the most efficient use of your time doesn’t count, either. The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people.

Sure, I procrastinate a lot, but I also do a lot of "aww, fuckit," which seems to go with the eat, drink and be merry bit. I often do the whole "staring at the stack of essays and suffering while changing tv channels, one eye on the essays and one on the tv," (and I am completely miserable), but I also often go, "no, I did one essay and I need a mental health break and I will now refuse to acknowledge the fact that they exist." Then I, I dunno, live in the moment, only focusing on the nap or food or pleasant activity I'm taking part in. But, yeah, there's definite benefits to just being unapologetically bad rather than beating oneself up about what one is not doing. It's like what Yoda said: "Do or not do. There is no procrastination."
Viewed this way, procrastination starts to look less like a question of mere ignorance than like a complex mixture of weakness, ambition, and inner conflict. ... Schelling proposes that we think of ourselves not as unified selves but as different beings, jostling, contending, and bargaining for control.... Similarly, Otto von Bismarck said, “Faust complained about having two souls in his breast, but I harbor a whole crowd of them and they quarrel. It is like being in a republic.” In that sense, the first step to dealing with procrastination isn’t admitting that you have a problem. It’s admitting that your “you”s have a problem.

"My yous have a problem" would also make a nice post title. Will save it for when needed.

The essay also has an explanation why we, as teachers, exist, and why our ability to set limits for students is vital even at the college level:

Instead, we should rely on what Joseph Heath and Joel Anderson, in their essay in “The Thief of Time,” call “the extended will”—external tools and techniques to help the parts of our selves that want to work.
And finally, the story that starts my post:
(Victor Hugo would write naked and tell his valet to hide his clothes so that he’d be unable to go outside when he was supposed to be writing.)

At some point I should get up and cook some dinner, but I'm enjoying myself here, reading stuff, watching a Dave Brubeck documentary on tv, relaxing. Tomorrow is another day? Nope, I'm just gonna seize the now.


Bardiac said...

Writing naked sounds rather pleasant in the summer, but downright dangerous at this point in the year!

Feminist Avatar said...

DOes not getting dressed in the morning count as naked- cause that's me most days I work from home. I think once they invented the internet, nakedness stopped being a prevention for procrastination.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Is it wrong that my first reaction to this post was to wonder what Victor Hugo looked like, and how old he was when he did this? Because, y'know, one needs this information to decide whether it was a good idea for him to write naked or not...

Dr. Koshary said...

FA is dead right. If there were no internet, I'd have three books in press already. (Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.) I once read the published diary of a famous academic who berated himself constantly for reading shitty novels as procrastination when he should have been working. I actually laughed condescendingly at him, thinking of how few books I escaped into when I was doing my doctoral research...until I remembered the eons of time I fucked away on the internet.

Writing naked is a good start, but first you need to pack up your clothes with your modem and set them all outside the door. And, you know, get a valet.