The Space Between: Reading, Writing, and a Third Thing (Thinking?)

I’m not a very efficient writer.

I have 20 hours of childcare a week, and usually lose two or three of those hours to late arrival (mine), getting settled in, and winding down.

It feels like I ought to be spending every minute of that time either reading or writing.

But I actually spend a lot of it giving my mind space to process what I’ve read or reorganize what I’ve written.

Brigid Schulte writes about realizing that many of the world’s great male artists had women (wives, housekeepers, mothers) who protected their time for them. They used this time not just for the physical act of producing, but also for taking long, silent walks where they thought through their work. Schulte points out that throughout history, women’s time has been fragmented, and they have carved their work time out of these little slivers.

My time is extremely fragmented, though less so than when my son was an infant. He sometimes blesses me by taking a long nap, which I inevitably use as leisure time rather than work time because honestly, my brain is just usually no good for work at the time that he’s napping. (I also can’t rely on these naps, so I’m afraid to plan to work during them, because sometimes he doesn’t take them.) My mother-in-law also helps out by spending several hours with him every week, and my partner takes care of most of the things that those great artists’ wives, mothers, and housekeepers did, in spite of having a full-time job himself.

So, I’m blessed.

But I still feel wrong when, instead of churning out my own words or filling my head with the words of others, I take time to stare.

Even though that’s where my words come from, that space between reading and writing.

I need to reconceptualize this space as part of the writing process.

What about you? Have you successfully given yourself permission to view thinking time as productive time?

Life online and losing and finding my faith in it

Get ready for some rambling, stream-of-consciousness, blogging-as-thinking.

As a member of the Oregon Trail generation, I came of age alongside the Web. I had access to much of it a little earlier than my peers, because my dad’s work provided home access for him. As an adolescent, I had this sort of constant feeling of the immense potential of my life ahead of me and of the Web, and as a young adult I really leaned into that, blogging starting in 2001. It’s not a big leap from me to this rando kid on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “I Robot, You Jane” who says, “The only reality is virtual. If you’re not jacked in, you’re not alive.” I feel this visceral connection to the Web that I have a hard time putting in words.

As I shared last weekend, I’ve been looking at Pierre Levy‘s writings on collective intelligence and cyberculture. I shared in the IndieWeb chat that I was reading Collective Intelligence and it was making me deeply sad. I actually had to put the book down several times and hit a bit of a wall in my plans for my comps because I just didn’t know how to recover from this sadness. The French edition of Collective Intelligence was published in 1994, and full of the kind of technoutopian rhetoric that I believed for years, that kind of still hums in my veins a bit. And reading it made me so sad about what I imagine we’ve lost, the weird internet Vicki Boykis talks about. Specifically, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the kind of collaboration that excited me about the web, and that Web 2.0 promised to make more accessible, is so much harder to find now, perhaps nearly impossible, because of silos and the proliferation of advertising.

And maybe it’s because I’m 38 instead of 18 that I’m feeling this way, maybe it’s something else, maybe I’m wrong. I just felt immensely defeated, even in the face of examples to the contrary. I just felt sad and overwhelmed and to be honest, this feeling hasn’t gone away entirely.

But then I was poking around the Vaporwave subreddit, which of course is a brilliant place to be if you’re feeling disillusioned by the false promises of and simultaneously nostalgic for 90s-era technoutopianism, and found the thread for VA:10, a project resulting from collaboration between 88 creators, with plans to create not just an album, but also a film and an art book, documenting this digitally-born musical genre and aesthetic. With plans to donate all proceeds to the Internet Archive.

And my faith came back a little.

Other stuff from this week:

Podcasts that are making my afternoons

M. and I have an agreement, proposed and enforced by me, after we spent months with him as a tiny audio tyrant during our commutes. Now, so that I don’t have to listen to Pharrell’s “Happy” on Repeat-1 for 40 minutes a day (or, as it would be now, “Belle” or “For the First Time in Forever” or “My Superhero Movie”), he chooses what we listen to on our morning commute (usually one of those songs above on Repeat-1, and he actually knows to ask for Repeat-1), and I choose what we listen to in the afternoon. He won’t begin a nap anywhere except in a moving car right now – ironic since we never had to do that with him when he was a tiny baby, but I guess it’s because we could always bounce him in the Boba and he’s too big for comfortable front-wearing at 33 months – and podcasts are more likely to lull him to sleep than music, and also I really enjoy podcasts, so most afternoons I put on a podcast.

For a while, we were listening to Fansplaining and The Mermaid Podcast, both of which are super fun, and which I intend to get back to. They’ve got huge backlogs, and also are a little distant from my current experiences in life, so I decided to check out some podcasts that are more relevant to my day-to-day and would be easier to catch up on. It’s made a huge difference in my quality of life. Here they are:

The Double ShiftThe Double Shift Podcast Cover Art: “a reported, narrative podcast about a new generation of working mothers.” Every mother works, host and journalist Katherine Goldstein points out. This podcast is huge for me because it’s not about parenting as an activity and it’s not about kids. It’s about personal experiences of being a mother and how that impacts your whole life. I loved hearing her talk to a punk rock future rabbi and women who work in Las Vegas brothels. I want more media like this: acknowledging that being a mom impacts everything you do, but doesn’t have to limit you to activities and ideas that center exclusively on motherhood. It’s sort of the impetus behind my (dormant but I’ve got the next issue in draft form) newsletter, Genetrix.

Acadames LogoAcadames: “a biweekly podcast that explores whether being a woman in academia is a dream, game, or scam through interviews with a diverse range of women.” This is hosted by two scholars in the health sciences at my university. They address lots of issues that feel deeply relevant for me, though I do sometimes bump up against the differences between health sciences and social sciences, for example when Dr. Whitney Robinson was talking about how she thinks the study of knowledge is called epistemology and I thought, “What a luxury, to be uncertain of the definition of epistemology.” (Her definition is one: epistemology as a branch of philosophy that deals with how we know what we know. In the humanities and social sciences especially, but also I think in the natural sciences, epistemology is also a scholar’s or scholarly community’s set of beliefs about how knowledge is constructed. Your “epistemological stance” is your personal take on this. Mine is that knowledge is constructed, that there are multiple ways of knowing that include but are not limited to both empirical and experiential ways, and that anyone can create knowledge.)

Motherhood Sessions Podcast LogoMotherhood Sessions: Dr. Alexandra Sacks is making matrescence, a concept with which I am obsessed, a more widely known idea. In her podcast, she talks to moms about all kinds of things, and basically does recorded therapy sessions. (The guests are people who volunteered to be on the show. She’s not secretly and unethically and maybe illegally? recording patients or anything.) Some of these are closer to my experience than others, but I found it especially valuable to hear from a mom of one who has mixed feelings about the fact that she’s okay with only having one kid, and a PhD student who has had her dissertation on hold for years and needs to talk through whether she wants to bother finishing.

Replied to

This is going to be great! I’m about 99% certain I was Anya in the first ever OMWF sing-along in February 2002. (I was def Anya, not sure it was first ever.) I’m hella jealous of @MegamiNyc rn.