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Re: [XTalk] OT "How they do it"

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson On: How They Do It From: Bruce Jeffrey, a published author, already knows how they do it, so what anyone else can
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 10, 2008
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      To: Crosstalk
      In Response To: Jeffrey Gibson
      On: How They Do It
      From: Bruce

      Jeffrey, a published author, already knows how they do it, so what anyone
      else can add is unclear to me. Advice to those still trying to reach
      Jeffrey's level might still be useful. Mine would include:

      1. Practical. Quit all these E-lists and get to work writing. You don't see
      Evans or Porter arguing points on Crosstalk, do you? Right.

      2. Cynical. The rules for those who want to be on fruitful terms with the
      publication world are few and obvious: (a) never antagonize a colleague, (b)
      keep your ear to the ground for popular trends, (c) lunch with editors, and
      (d) get in good with the SBL leadership.

      3. The Small Stuff. As for doing it in the first place, my advice is
      elsewhere on record; see

      http://www.umass.edu/wsp/methodology/advice/index.html

      But in sum: (a) read. Wilamowitz-Moellendorff to a young visitor, at 8 in
      the morning, "What are you reading?" (b) don't sleep. That bad habit can be
      reduced by suitable discipline. You need at least 18 hours out of the day.
      (c) manage your desk. (d) manage your files. This and the preceding allow
      you to work unclutteredly on one thing at a time, but shift instantly to
      another thing if a point occurs to you, without losing either the point or
      your previous work on the book currently at the top of the priority list.
      And then shift back without losing a step. (e) overlap. You cannot do only
      one thing at a time, or you will never get much of anywhere; hence the
      previous solution to the problem of keeping several going at once. (f)
      persist. Sitzfleisch is the chief physical qualification, the catch being
      that it has to cumulate. Divide your planned books by your available days,
      and set a daily quota. Then multiply by 1.36. Neither virtue nor authorship
      can be successfully accomplished in spurts. Either read the diaries of
      Arnold Bennett, or take my word for it. The latter is faster; Bennett's
      diaries are extensive. But suit yourself.

      I doubt if that advice is any use to Jeffrey, but maybe to somebody. I fully
      intend to take it myself, one day soon. Or anyway, some of it.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Jeffrey, I d ask em who was their role model for writing and publishing? I suspect that the influence of one s grad school teachers is extremely
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 10, 2008
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        At 09:14 AM 12/10/2008, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
        >I'm thinking of surveying scholars whose production of articles and
        >books is enviable and whose research and knowledge of the filed is
        >prodigious, to find out how they "do it".
        >
        >What sort of questions about reading and writing habits etc. etc. do
        >list members think I should ask?
        >
        >What sort of habits are yours?
        >
        >Jeffrey

        Jeffrey,
        I'd ask'em who was their role model for writing and publishing? I suspect
        that the influence of one's grad school teachers is extremely influential.
        * Ask about how obsessive (or not) their grad faculty was in getting
        every last detail right
        * Ask how their mentors decided when something was "ready" to publish
        * When they heard a voice saying "Its ready," whose voice was it?
        (voice may be internal or external)
        * Find out whether they set aside large blocks of time for writing, so
        that they were able to gain some momentum, or whether they were able to
        "write on the run."
        * Find out if they focused on one writing project at a time, or if they
        had a bunch of projects going all the time.
        * Find out if they decided in advance on the scope of a particular
        writing project: what the objective was, how well-defined the project was
        at the beginning, or whether they just went with the flow as the subject
        and their interest developed
        * Find out if they rushed to publish the juicy stuff first, and then
        let the details languish, or whether they'd lay out the details first, and
        then spice it up with some juicy stuff for flavoring.
        I've struggled with these questions for my whole career. If you took all
        the stuff I've ever written on XTalk, there'd be enough material for
        several books. (I didn't say it was GOOD material!) But did I ever write
        one? Not since 1996, when I first joined.

        Maybe when I retire...

        Bob Schacht
        University of Hawaii


        >--
        >Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
        >1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
        >Chicago, Illinois
        >e-mail jgibson000@...
        >
        >
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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Horace Jeffery Hodges
        Jeffrey, I don t know about those who are so productive as you note, but I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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          Jeffrey, I don't know about those who are so productive as you note, but I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I do research.
           
          Some of the scholars whom you would be interested in interviewing would perhaps have advice on how to filter out the unnecessary from the necessary as they pursue their research.
           
          Again, in my case, I usually already know the answer before I undertake the research, so I know what's not profitable to follow up. Of course, if I come across a powerful anomaly, I revise and head off on the changed course.
           
          Some scholars are just a whole lot better at this than I am -- and perhaps Bruce offered some of the reasons.
           
          Jeffery Hodges


          --- On Wed, 12/10/08, Jeffrey B. Gibson <jgibson000@...> wrote:

          From: Jeffrey B. Gibson <jgibson000@...>
          Subject: [XTalk] OT "How they do it"
          To: "Crosstalk2" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
          Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 1:14 PM

          I'm thinking of surveying scholars whose production of articles and
          books is enviable and whose research and knowledge of the filed is
          prodigious, to find out how they "do it".

          What sort of questions about reading and writing habits etc. etc. do
          list members think I should ask?

          What sort of habits are yours?

          Jeffrey

          --
          Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
          1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
          Chicago, Illinois
          e-mail jgibson000@...


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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: Crosstalk Cc: WSW In Response To: Jeffery Hodges On: How To Do It From: Bruce JEFFERY: . . . I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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            To: Crosstalk
            Cc: WSW
            In Response To: Jeffery Hodges
            On: How To Do It
            From: Bruce

            JEFFERY: . . . I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older
            because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I
            do research.

            BRUCE: Somewhere in here, I think, may be the root of the whole business.
            Some people have a knack for seeing the right place to begin work on a
            problem, or on sensing when a much worked-on problem is ready to "go;" they
            are adept at snaking the kinglog out of the jam. Oppenheimer had a positive
            genius for this sort of thing; in my field, Sinology, George Kennedy of Yale
            was conspicuous for it. As far as my experience or my reading go, that is a
            gift which few have; it can to some extent be developed. The other key is
            good old Germanic thoroughness; seeing the work through to the end, without
            getting distracted by the byways, and then getting it out the door in 14
            pages or less. This skill is a little more common than the first; it too
            (including the much-neglected concision aspect) is developable up to a
            point, and worth cultivating up to that point.

            The rub is that very few people have both skills; they might even be said to
            imply opposite temperaments. That is why a good research team (a concept
            almost unknown in the humanities, but fertile where it *is* known) usually
            includes a good finder as well as a good completer. Or a good finder and
            fourteen good completers. Consider Edison, or Rutherford, or Pauling. That
            is how people do it, who care about doing it consistently.

            Jeffrey G's survey reminds me a little of the one undertaken a while back
            among mathematicians, to discover the roots of mathematical creativity.
            Hadamard has a little book on the results (The Psychology of Invention in
            the Mathematical Field); worth reading for anyone who cares about these
            things. See also Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (also much
            reprinted). This literature is not much known among humanists. And sure
            enough, the research productivity of humanists (as against their logorrhea,
            which is after all not quite the same thing) is notably low. Which may be
            why, in the current worldwide budget narrows, physical science vacancies are
            being replaced, at our so-called "research universities," while humanities
            vacancies, by and large, are not. Administrations are suddenly getting
            serious about research. Who would have thought it?

            Too late to change the condition of the much-bewailed but little-regarded
            humanities; the crunch is now and the tab is being paid now. But wouldn't it
            have been auspicious if someone had raised these questions about a
            generation ago?

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • Horace Jeffery Hodges
            JEFFERY: . . . I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I do research.
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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              JEFFERY: . . . I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older
              because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I
              do research.

              BRUCE: Somewhere in here, I think, may be the root of the whole business.
              Some people have a knack for seeing the right place to begin work on a
              problem, or on sensing when a much worked-on problem is ready to "go;" they
              are adept at snaking the kinglog out of the jam.
               
              Addendum from Jeffery Hodges: I think that a couple of things help with that knack: (1) breadth of vision that comes from wide-ranging curiosity and (2) concentration upon narrowly focused questions that can broaden out into broad-ranging solutions.
               
              Like Prufrock, we should avoid the overwhelming question.
               
              Jeffery Hodges

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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