By Juliana Adelman
[Image from Hyperbole and a Half ]
I am spending a lot of time writing at the moment. What this really means, as most of you will know, is that I am staring at my computer trying to think of just about anything I could do except for write. Pay bills? check. Email old friends and relatives? check. Examine long range weather forecasts? check. Eventually I get inspired by either an idea or the sight of the hour hand creeping ever downwards and I start writing. Is writer’s block real or is it just procrastination? I feel as though I have tried everything: keeping journals everywhere to write down ideas, scheduling regular writing time, setting imaginary deadlines, setting real deadlines, pinning up aspirational word counts, writing from outlines, freewriting…The list goes on. It never gets any easier. In my efforts to avoid writing I have learned the following things you may find interesting, just in case you need some other ways to avoid doing whatever you are supposed to be doing.
1. The Library of Congress plans to archive all of Twitter. See the online magazine, Slate‘s article on the subject. This seems like a good idea, and a potentially fruitful source. This born-digital material will also be stored, as far as I understand, in digital form. The LoC is even providing tips to individuals on how to preserve their own digital materials.
2. ‘ALOT is better than you at everything.’ Hyperbole and a Half may be the funniest thing I have ever read. I am serious. My personal favourite is the author’s rant about bad grammar. Maybe I have a strange sense of humour, but I actually laughed so hard at some of the posts that I cried. This is a very good way to waste time.
3. Homo sapiens may or may not have had sex with Neanderthals. This and much more can be gleaned from John Hawks’s blog about palaeoanthropology. That is the study of the remains of human ancestors. Some of it is far too technical for me, but you can skip around. Learning about the evolutionary history of mankind is surely worth a few minutes of procrastination. Try the tag ‘race’ and there are lots of interesting pieces on how the science of human origins intersects with sticky social issues.
4. If you are not religious, it is hard to agree on what the point of morality is. I have pointed to the blog On the Human before, but the current essay up for discussion is, I think, particularly relevant to historians. Peter Railton, a philosopher, considers what the source of human morality is: biological evolution or culture. Read Railton and pause to think deep thoughts about your subjects.
5. Professors are out there procrastinating with the best of us. And in fact, Professor John Perry of Stanford has spent so much time doing it that he bothered to write an essay in justification. Read ‘Structured Procrastination‘ and learn how to procrastinate properly, so it is never a waste of time.