If you don’t exercise enough, you get out-of-shape (i.e., flabby). I feel a bit like that’s been happening with me intellectually. It’s not that I do nothing; it’s just that I don’t have all that many deadlines, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last while away from my own research. I have been thinking, but it’s been about other things.
I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten lazy; as well, I’m super easily distracted and content to do little for longer periods of time. The following description that I found on Alan Jacobs’s blog, text patterns, resonates with me:
Tom Bisell, from his book Extra Lives, an extended defense of the art of the video game and the value of spending large chunks of your life playing them:
Once upon a time, I wrote in the morning, jogged in the late afternoon, and spent most of my evenings reading. Once upon a time, I wrote off as unproductive those days in which I had managed to put down “only” a thousand words. Once upon a time, I played video games almost exclusively with friends. Once upon a time, I did occasionally binge on games, but these binges rarely had less than fortnight between them. Once upon a time, I was, more or less, content.
“Once upon a time” refers to relatively recent years (2001-2006) during which I wrote several books and published more than fifty pieces of magazine journalism and criticism — a total output of, give or take, 4,500 manuscript pages. I rarely felt very disciplined during this half decade, though I realize this admission invites accusations of disingenuousness or, failing that, a savage and justified beating. Obviously, I was disciplined. These days, however, I am lucky if I finish reading one book every fortnight. These days, I have read from start to finish exactly two works of fiction — excepting those I was not also reviewing — in the last year. These days, I play video games in the morning, play video games in the afternoon, and spend my evenings playing video games. These days, I still manage to write, but the times I am able to do so for more than three sustained hours have the temporal periodicity of comets with near-Earth trajectories.
I remember writing paper after paper while working on my master’s degree(s) in the United States; it wasn’t always easy nor were they always of the highest quality but I was ‘in shape’ to do that. And I worry about fossilizing, about not moving forward in my knowledge. I don’t think that’s happening (except perhaps with my dutch knowledge), but it’s enough of a concern that I’m looking for some extra exercise (intellectually) this summer.
A variation of this post was originally posted at “so this fits how?“