I had no clue what to write about this week until I watched the TEDxYouth talk by Seth Godin called “Stop Stealing Dreams.” Specifically, I got interested in writing when I heard Mr. Godin say “…if it’s work, they try to figure out how to do less. And if it’s art, we try to figure out how to do more.” I think this statement is obvious, but I also think it is something we overlook every day.
Maybe I am wrong in thinking art is similar to play, but in my mind it is very clear that when I view what I am doing as play I am 100% more willing to do it versus when I view it as work. When I say “art,” what I am picturing is something that is creative, thought provoking, and often times fun, which to me resembles play. For example, when I am working on my literature review for my thesis I view reading journal articles as a chore. They are interesting, no doubt, but in my mind there are other things I would rather be doing. On the other hand, when I have free time and I am able to do something else, a lot of times I will choose to read journal articles, but this time I am reading them for pleasure! This time, it is as if I am sitting down in front of my computer ready to play video games, but in reality I am doing the exact same thing as what I pictured as “work” before. This time, I am not limited to the viewpoint of “what will be useful to put in my dissertation,” but rather I am able to think freely about what it is I am reading and I can let my mind make many more connections to other concepts that I would usually shut out.
It is clear that we like to do things that we are not supposed to be doing at the time. If I know that I should be reading these papers in order to retain information to write for my dissertation, it will be a long, annoying day. But, if I am able to indulge myself on those same papers, then the day could not go slow enough. Mr. Godin makes an amusing analogy during his talk between memorizing baseball history and stats to memorizing information we learn in school and I could not have said it better myself. Whether or not he intended this, what is even more ironic about his statement is that many people (myself included) do spend time memorizing stats and the history of sports because at the time we are doing it is a fun, creative process that we are just making up as we go along. I have spent countless hours going through pages of statistics for soccer players/teams so I can recite/recall the numbers at any give time as well as making graphical representations to understand the layout of the league at that moment in time because I enjoy going through those thought provoking exercises. It is funny because there are people that do that sort of stuff for a job, whereas I spend my time doing it out of pleasure.
I think I should state that I really do enjoy my PhD work (and academia in general), but I do classify it as work. There are times that I am able to view it as some sort of art, which makes my day that much better, but I think that I (and many others) could benefit from trying to view their work and/or schooling as art, or at least some sort of creative, thought provoking process, which may end up making it that much more enjoyable.