Start Making Sense

I’ve written in this space before about my relationship with writing, but I’ve never really considered how I write, how I get shit done. So using Lifehacker’s How We Work series as a Proust Questionnaire-type model, I’m taking a crack at chasing my workflow, so. Here goes.

Current gig: PhD wonderland
One word that best describes how you work: Ongoing
Current mobile device: iPhone 4
Current computer: MacBook Pro that’s aging gracefully

What apps/software/tools can’t you truly live without?

  • Notes on the iPhone. A good 80% of my projects, both fan fiction and academic, start there.
  • WordPress and Tumblr.The next generation of idea development happens here.
  • Dropbox synched on all my devices and online. Almost all of my teaching materials live there, in various iterations, along with tons of fandom and academic-related PDFs.
  • Good Reader for iPad. PDF access all the time to shit I pull down from Dropbox.

What’s your workplace setup like?

workspace @ school

The key for me is having a big space to spread out in. I don’t need shelves or drawers, really; just a big wide workspace to fill with books, papers, computer, and other detritus  At school, I spend as much time sitting on my desk as I do behind it; it’s just easier for me to work up there. At home, I make a conscious effort to work at my desk and not on the couch. Couch = social media. Desk = writing.

That said, I spend more time working in alternative spaces like the library and the local Starbucks than I do in either of these officially sanctioned places.

workspace @ home

Decorating my spaces, adorning them with the relics of academic fandom, is key for me. I need Batman putting his finger in my face sometimes; at others, I just need some pretty to stare at when the words aren’t coming fast enough.

Blank walls freak me out, is what I’m saying.

What’s your best timesaving hack/shortcut?

Write shit down. Whenever and wherever an idea comes, I write it down RIGHT THEN or else it’s gone. This saves me time later wracking my brain for evidence of my previous brilliance, because it’s all there on my iPhone or in the margins of my homework.


when i run out of space here, these notes migrate to other rooms. my hallway’s full of the things.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? 

Giant sticky notes on the wall of my workspace. They’re the in-world version of my iPhone Notes.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

The iPad when I’m traveling and at conferences and a good set of headphones, always.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

Giving myself permission to write. Just sitting down and letting the words come, fucked up or sideways or even right the first time. Publishing my stuff on the internet has done wonders for me, in this way: I write something, I publish it, period. Writing’s like a trap-and-release program, for me.

What do you listen to while you work?

Blessed silence or movie soundtracks like Tron: Legacy and X-Men: First Class.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Ugh. Terrible. I go to bed at a reasonable hour, sure, but then I wake up more than once and check email, which suggests to the cats that it’s time to get up. A struggle ensues, with sleep the inevitable loser.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Bitch please. I am the textbook introvert.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Listening solves 95% of problems. Help people to know they’re being heard.

The hardest part, for me? Is listening to myself.

Turn Back Now

A friend pointed out that, in my last post about my digital self, I linked the shit out of that sucker, a choice that she argued had the effect of shifting the reader from a linear experience in this space–scrolling from top to bottom–to one that’s unstuck in both space and time by kicking the reader through my back catalogue of posts, but in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure sort of way, you know, like:

You see a series of doors ahead of you.

  • If you choose the one marked “slash fic writer,” turn to page 7.
  • If you choose the door marked “rhetorician,” turn to page 4.
  • If you choose the one marked “political junkie,” turn to page 12.

Huh. I’d never thought of this place, this blog, quite like that.

Part of it, I suppose, is that because I wrote all of the posts in question–build all the damn doors myself–it’s hard for me not to think of this space as linear. At its core, this blog’s a trace of my thinking, for better or worse, and I tend to think of it in temporal terms. How the posts tagged to what was happening offline, what I was reading, where I was physically located, etc.

Now my friend, she’s very into space, the way that physical environments–especially those designed/designated as memorials–can affect the user/visitor’s construction of knowledge. So it stuck with me, a burr under my mental saddle–and then it ran headlong into George Siemens.

Siemens is an educational theorist and teacher up in the Canada, eh, whose work explores what he calls “connectivism,” a theory of learning that attempts to account for human-computer interactions. In “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” Siemens recasts learning as

a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.

(HAL 9000? Is that you?)

I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.

Such a redefinition is necessary, he (Siemens, not HAL) argues, to account for shifts in learning practice and application. Educators must recognize that

knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner

but is rather constructed, negotiated, and revised by an individual end user within an ever-evolving panoply of informational networks comprised of both electronic devices–hi Gerty!–and other individual users.

I’m here to help you, Sam.

Ultimately, each of us is constantly playing in and with what Siemens calls our “personal learning network,” one which, if it’s to remain useful, must always be kairotic.

So this got me thinking. Maybe one way of approaching this blog–a clearinghouse for my online life–is as the temporary home of my personal learning network, an online space through which I can momentarily move beyond what Spock might call “two-dimensional thinking.”

That is, a place wherein I might learn/write [because for me they are inexorably connected] not outside of time and space, per say, but through it, with the understanding that the Enterprise can fly up and down and beyond just as well as she can fly straight ahead.

But this assumes, I think, that I’ll return to the blog as a reader, too; as someone who engages with what I’ve written after the fact, outside of the kairotic moment in which the words first flew. Hmm. So building this living memorial to my PLN isn’t enough, perhaps; I’ve got to wander through it from time to time and engage the gaze. Participate in a little metacognition.

So, then, if other people, other readers, visit this space, then, it might become a point of connection within their own PLN, temporarily or no.

Besides, you can always turn the pages back and choose another door if you don’t like what you find:

  • You see Castiel spread out on the bed before you.
  • You see Gorgias spread out on the bed before you.
  • You see Rick Santorum spread out on the bed before you.

…do you wish to proceed?