A good part of my time now is spent learning, teaching and writing. At Brown, it’s kind of my job. Yes I’m also doing consulting work but even that work, done well, involves learning, teaching, writing.
There are mornings I wake up and think, “I’d rather get a pickup truck, work gloves and Clorox and go clean up south Louisiana’s Ida mess than sit at this desk and put words on a page”. It’s not that I hate the “work of the mind”, I love it actually. But to do it I must daily climb over how I was trained to be in the world.
First – “working class values” include a serious focus on productivity. Tangible evidence of effort. Hours on task. Getting shit done is practically the religion of Houston and it was definitely the gospel in the home I grew up in. Effort + results = reward/respect.
In Texas we value bold action and mock those with ideas that never got sunk into the ground. Every idea has to come with girders and concrete. Critical thinking, planning, new ideas – well they just slow us down. Ambition and heavy machinery, that’s how we roll. This is why we often idiotically repeat ourselves. Repeat our successes until they become mistakes. (That’s how come we’re getting a damn freeway expansion no one wants – but lemme get back on track.)
Once, I remember my father asking me what a certain person was doing – meaning for a job. I said “he’s writing”. My father said “That figures. I knew he’d never do any real work”. My father didn’t appreciate ideas. He appreciated work you could see. He was famous for saying “10 words or less” as an instruction whenever he wanted an answer. As for my mom? We once nicknamed her “Tasmanian Devil” after the cartoon character. Do not get between my mom and getting things done.
There’s also the Cajun part of me that stands a little to the side watching my writing/thinking efforts with amusement. Imagine taking your ideas seriously! Look at you sitting there trying to find good words and citations! Ha. You could be getting shit done.
I have new definitions of getting shit done now. I put words on a page. I listen exquisitely and write down what people tell me and I give it back to them. I aggravate people into thinking. You can’t imagine how valuable this is to people who are so busy doing they really can’t hear themselves think*.
Sometimes we need a “reflection buddy”. Someone who can hear us as we think and reflect our own useful thoughts and ideas back to us.
I’m still uncomfortable putting my own ideas on stage/page (except for here cause y’all are all pals) but still uncomfortable with the notion that what I have to say is worth all this fuss of organizing and fixing and citing and sharing. I can hear my dad saying “do some real work”.
Now I’m going do the dishes. Real work.
* (Have you ever said that to yourself? “I can’t hear myself think”. My mother said that often when we were growing up “Will y’all just be quiet for a minute. I can’t hear myself think”. )