On preferring learning to doing

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I love to read about writing. I’m the kind of person who finds Strunk and White fun. I keep buying books about writing: Stephen King’s On Writing, Ursula K. LeGuin’s conversations, and many more. And I do write: mostly blog posts and email messages these days, but I have written just about every format there is. I have not shared or attempted to publish much of that writing, though.

What keeps me from doing it? What has me loving reading about craft but rarely implementing what I read? It’s not that I never write but rather that I enjoy reading about writing perhaps more than writing itself. (No, that’s not quite right. I actually enjoy writing, even genres/formats I think I don’t enjoy, like book reviews. I loved writing last week’s book review of Brent Spiner’s Fan Fiction, despite constantly telling myself I don’t like writing book reviews.)

I think one of the things that keeps me hoarding and absorbing resources but leveraging them less frequently than I acquire and engage with them is my love of learning. I was working on a blog post about qualitative research for a client today and my head started swimming with how much I love learning about different methods of qual research. And I love doing it, too! I love creating a research design. I love finding the meaning in the data. But I think I love learning about new techniques for it even more. I was talking with W. about how readily I forget that I actually love doing this thing I spent six years learning to do - I went into the PhD explicitly because I wanted to devote time to understanding research methods. My PhD is in qualitative methods as much as or more than it’s in my discipline. (Except I love my discipline, too, which I also sometimes forget!)

Back to the point, here: W. suggested that perhaps UX careers would be a good fit, a place where a person could do qualitative research. I told him yes, that or market research. And then I told him that I don’t want to just do it in service of whatever business would want to hire me for it as much as I want to learn about it and share what I learn with other people so THEY can do it.

And then I said, “But what I REALLY need to remember is that I already have a client paying me to do exactly that.”

So I’m actually getting paid to do the learning I love. In a very real sense, I am at present, living the dream. It would serve me well to remember that.

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Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @KimberlyHirsh
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 This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 .

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We must acknowledge that much of what we know of this country today, including its culture, economic growth, and development throughout history and across time, has been made possible by the labor of enslaved Africans and their ascendants who suffered the horror of the transatlantic trafficking of their people, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow. We are indebted to their labor and their sacrifice, and we must acknowledge the tremors of that violence throughout the generations and the resulting impact that can still be felt and witnessed today. I thank Dr. Terah ‘TJ’ Stewart for the text of this labor acknowledgement.