The Rhythm and The Craft

Morning thoughts from eight weeks into my university experience.

I’m loving the rhythm of this, the waking early, out while the streets are mostly empty, having a reason to do so. Having many reasons and tending them carefully.

I’m starting to write now rather than just prepare for and go to all the lectures. But fascinated by so many of the lectures once I get there. So often making me wonder whether I should add some of what I’ve just heard about to the thing I thought I’d just about finished writing. So much is still new, so much being heard about for the first time.

This particular day will be quantitative. Work on a module that’s more numbers than words, and therefore outside of where I’m normally comfortable. Even so, I get and accept at least some of the reasons for doing it. In all of my life the numbers have been for other people. Magicians who made sense, organised the money, or disagreed with my reasons, my passions, my words – with their numbers. Essential magicians these though, best of all my friend of recent years who calls herself a ‘creative economist’ and has helped so much to happen round here that wouldn’t have seemed possible otherwise.

So I’m going to work with numbers this morning.

Before that and to get myself in the mood I’m doing some reading while I’m writing this. Getting inspirations from 1959 from one of my several inspirations of these past few weeks.

First about the value of this. This writing of how and why and feelings that I’m doing here:

‘The individual social scientist…who believes it is much better to have one account by a working student of how they are going about their work than a dozen ‘codifications of experience’ by specialists.’

This is C. Wright Mills ‘On Intellectual Craftsmanship’ where he writes about bringing yourself into your work, not splitting your work from your life and even:

‘Designing a way of living which will encourage the habits of good workmanship.’

(All this ‘man’ stuff, by the way, is how he writes. It’s a different time. It’s Mad Men, it’s 1959, we’re on the ‘New Frontier’ and the Kennedy brothers are out drinking with the Rat Pack. Things are different now, for us all.)

Anyway, Mills talks about the craft of doing all this. The organising of files, the reading, the self-experience, the keeping of a journal:

‘Many creative writers keep journals. The sociologist’s need for systematic reflection demands it.’

So I can’t do other than this, this journal writing.

In the written down world of 1959 a sociology journal is for ‘fringe thoughts’ of ideas, dreams, self-reflections and rough plans:

‘Perhaps for discussion with friends.’

My journal is for all of those too, but my rough plans and fringe thoughts are in public. It’s not 1959 any more and in this blogged record of what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling about all this, this learning, I know I’m taking risks. Of looking foolish now or in retrospect, of writing too soon about things I’ll come to know much more about.

So what? I’m interested and I can’t do otherwise than this writing about what I’m interested in.

‘The first step in translating experience, either of other people’s writing, or of your own life, into the intellectual sphere, is to give it form.’

I’m ‘giving it form’ here and now in this library, early this morning.

Next then, and for the rest of the morning, the form will be numbers. I’m working at my craft. Content, excited, confused sometimes. But working.

Quotes are from ‘On Intellectual Craftsmanship’ by C. Wright Mills, the appendix to his ‘The Sociological Imagination.’ Here and there, where I can, I’ve changed some of the ‘man’ stuff in his quotes. Because I can. It’s my journal after all!

Read more of my university writing here.

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