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Thursday, June 19, 2014


I know Thomas has blogged recently about pleasure and pain. I will take today about pleasure.

If you don't write with delectation your reader will feel none. If you are bored with your topic, your reader will feel your boredom--your pain, whatever it is that you feel, she will feel it too.

Taking pleasure. Well, look at the play I wrote yesterday, playing hooky from my scholarly writing. That was fun and I don't care whether anyone else likes the final result.

The first thing: take pleasure in the raw materials. What you have chosen to write about has value and interest to you. It could be the pleasure of finding something egregiously bad or stupid, even.

Take pleasure in the level of engagement with the material. You are enjoying your spending of the time in this company. With this engagement, you lose a sense of your self as separate from the material.

Take pleasure in the final result, your ability to make something valuable and pleasurable to other people. Write pleasure-giving sentences.


Now I can't tell you to take pleasure in something. Imagine a father telling the child: you will not only listen to this musical recital, but you will ENJOY it. What I am saying is that if you aren't enjoying it, something is amiss.

What impedes pleasure?

*Focus on the ego. Am I good enough? Look how smart I am!
*Focus on rewards / punishments, external factors. Will this be published? Will it lead to promotion?
*Focus on work conditions, everything in academic life that makes you miserable. You let that affect the work itself.

It could be that you have to work unhappily, deriving little pleasure from your work, because these other factors conspire to drain your scholarly work of all enjoyment. What is more, I think this happens for most people, almost everyone at some point. What I am trying to suggest is that scholarly bliss indeed exists and is worth pursuing.


Some never achieve the level of proficiency needed. Some take joy in their own inferior work. More power to them.

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