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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.

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @kimberlyhirsh