Research means writing. We all do a lot of writing, professors and students alike. Writing is a fundamental aspect of our jobs. Of course we might also do more than write as part of our research (i.e. make websites, make art works, design digital things, and so on). I have been working for a while on an article, and I have become increasingly aware of how my own work habits have been changing over the years. Not only how I write is changing but also where I write.
I remember being an undergraduate student, writing in my bedroom in my parent’s house on a tiny white particle board desk–that matched the rest of my bedroom furniture. Self disclosure coming….I am so old I wrote by hand and then typed my essays on a small (but electric!) typewriter–not even an IBM! No, I longed for an IBM Selectric.
In my Master’s program I wrote everything by hand and then typed it into computers in the university library. Yes, on those computers that had big floppy disks (I can just hear some of you…what’s a floppy disk?). When I was a Master’s student I had an office in the library. Man-oh-man I felt important.
PhD: shared office space with other grad students in the department and now my very own PC–a Tandy that came from Radio Shack and which I bought second hand. I wrote in my tiny apartment. I wrote my dissertation in my apartment all day, printed off what I had written, went to the cafe to read and revise, then returned to the apartment and my computer to do the revisions. I lived in fear of computer crashes and bad floppy disks. Yes, still had floppy disks, just smaller ones.
Finally, big tower PCs when I got my job here at uW. Eventually, Macs of all kinds. [RIP Steve Jobs; you changed my life]. Now I write mainly on a laptop (PowerBook or MacBook Air) and I write in all sorts of places in my house and in cafes. I have a perfectly good office in my house. But I don’t write there. I have a perfectly good office at the University. But I don’t write there. No, I write on my kitchen or dining room tables.
And then I wondered: where do others in the English department write? So I asked my colleagues and grad students to send me photographs of where they do their work: reading, thinking, writing–pulling their hair out trying to find the words.
Here are a few images to be getting on with. Please send more if you want a part 2 of this post.