I've been working a bit--rather a lot, actually--on getting myself ready to apply for graduate school (again) in a year to eighteen months, and one of the things that I'm trying to get figured out is the "why" question. Why go? Why bother? Questions like that. For starters, I hope to have some of the youthful angst regarding education knackered by the time I go back, and second, I think I'll be able to make the most of the experience. This post speaks to one part of this challenge: about what research is productive and worthwhile (that is, novel and original), and what research is by contrast merely an explanation of the obvious.

This is all predicated on the assumption that there's some sort of qualitative divide between the kind of causal observation and theoretical work that is what I do, (already), and "real work," productive work that productively contributes to a discourse. (Too young for impostor syndrome? unlikely!) Now this might be a ill conceived separation but, nevertheless the thought is on my mind.

The trains of thought:

  • There's some fundamental difference between blagging and productive "knowledge production." Blogging is a practice that doesn't lead to systematic investigation, and thus, while interesting and a productive tool for the development of my thinking, it's a lousy end in and of itself.

    As I wrote that above paragraph, I remember that it resonated with a thought I've had about this website (in it's previous iterations) many years ago. Interesting.

  • Fiction writing has (and continues) to be the most satisfying output of this impulse that I've been able to have thus far. While I do worry that my fiction isn't novel enough, that's a technical (eg. plot, setting, character) issue rather than a theoretical (eg. the science, and historiography) concern.

    Fiction writing also has a long publication cycle. My blog posts, from inception to posting, aren't particularly time intensive. Fiction, even/especially short stories require a bunch of extra time, and being able to immerse myself in a collection of ideas for a long time has a bunch of benefit.

    Also, there's a credential issue that I rather enjoy with-regards to Science Fiction. There's no degree that I could possibly want. I mean, sure, there are popular fiction writing programs, but that's not a requirement, and I suspect that I'll (try) to go to viable paradise sometime in the 2010s (or Clarion if I am somehow, ever, able to spare 6 grand and the ability to take 6 weeks off of my life), these would just be "for me," and there's nothing other that the quality of my work and the merit of my ideas that are between me and acceptance as a science fiction writer. That's really comforting, somehow.

  • Most of us read literature of some sort, and talk about literary texts of one stripe or another, but I don't think that these activities necessarily make most of us literary critics. The art and project of literary criticism is something more. The difference between reading and talking about a text and practicing literary criticism is an issue of methodology. One of the chief reasons I want to go back to school is to develop an additional methodological tool kit, because my current one is a bit lacking. I'm pretty convinced that the difference between "thinking/doing cool things" and "doing/thinking important things," is largely an issue of methodology.

While I don't think this would short circuit the gradschool plans, but I think working to develop some sort of more rigorous methodological companion to the blogging process that goes beyond the general "so folks, I was thinking about foo so I'm going to tell you a story" (did I just give away my formula? Eep!)