It was probably the year 2000 and I was in graduate school leaving my part time job as a research assistant. I was getting in the elevator at the same time as one of the professors from my school. This was a man who commanded a great deal of respect. He did not demand it, but he deserved it. I was in one of his courses during my first semester of classes. I loved his course. It was focused on policy and evaluation. This was an area I had never thought about at all, but once introduced, couldn’t get enough. It was also a class in which I was completely lost when it came to getting my ideas down on paper. I still have a copy of my midterm. Across the top he wrote in red marker, “Some papers start with an introduction, in your case even a roadmap might have helped.” On another page it said, “spellcheck is not a substitute for brains”. I found out later that he told my advisor that my contributions in class and my writing did not match up at all. This was my first semester in graduate school. I was intellectually prepared but not educationally prepared. Anyway, I step into the elevator with him. At this point my coursework is completed and I am in full dissertation mode. He asks me how I am doing. I reply saying that I am worried because I never have time to get work done. He asks how I am spending my time. I explain that I get caught up in researching and reading and never get to the writing. He looked at me and matter of factly stated, “That is the work”.
It was 20 years ago and I still come back to that. I can’t skip to the writing. The researching and reading and sketching and thinking is all part of the work. It is an important part of the process that I did not value because there was not a product to point to at the end of it.
As a way to honor the work and also to create accountability, I am committing to 15 minutes a day of documenting my work. If I read something, I will do a little brain dump about what I read, maybe even try to make meaning of it. If I wrote, maybe I will share what I wrote or at least a sketch. If I just thought about the work, I will share that too.
I hope that this will inspire some others to honor whatever form your work takes.