I’m currently in a bit of a quandary.
I’m on a roll and my words per day have been through the roof.
As a writer such bouts of productivity are to be cherished because they dry up as fast as they flood, the block kicks in, and suddenly you’ve got nothing to say.
My problem is that this particular spurt of enthusiasm has lasted the best part of a year. There is a lot of material that needs to be tidied up.
The writing gig is a long process. Only the first part, maybe 20%, is origination. The inspiration strikes and the first splurge of vomit makes a splatter on the page. The next phase is to tidy up the mess.
Making sense of the first draft takes numerous waves of editing and rejigging in order to shape a narrative that is, at least in the writer’s mind, comprehensible.
After that, the process involves third parties engaged with structural and copy editing, as well as preparation of material into the various format to share with the world.
The process of writing is a mechanical one, way more drudge than inspiration and creativity.
My current quandary is, do I stop writing and begin the real work?
Whilst I’m on a roll this seems like a mistake. I must keep going whilst the muse is dancing away in front of me. Only, where will the time come from to clean up the mess?
I really don’t know what to do.
The process of science
Science is the same.
As a student, I was always told that science is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. A quote pilloried from elsewhere no doubt but no less true for lack of originality.
The process of science goes something like this.
An idea worth testing springs to mind, typically on a topic that you find fascinating. Maybe you spot a gap in knowledge that an experiment or a set of observations can fill.
That moment of clarity will set in train several months worth of hard work pulling together the evidence through experiment or observation. More often than not the procedures need development and fine-tuning, it can take a week to calibrate a measurement. Once the set up is done the data collection begins and last as long as the test requires. A while if the subject is the gestation period of an elephant. Then comes the collation, analysis and interpretation of the data into evidence. This in itself can take months with the prospect that the hypotheses will need clarification and another experiment or two completed before the evidence is clear. All this must then be condensed into a short communication that peers will tear apart before an editor maybe gives the green light to publication.
All up, an equally long and laborious process as writing. More a slog than an inspiration.
Few research scientists have the luxury of hanging about in the fun of speculation and hypothesis generation. In science, there is no substitute for the effort needed to generate evidence. There is no evidence without the hard yards in the laboratory or the field.
Even if you are the theorist who looks to the mathematics of it all, there is drudgery in the proof.
Evidence takes hard work.
Now for an apparent non sequitur
The process of sustainability
The conundrum of ideas versus hard work applies to a whole range of our sustainability problems.
We know that ideas are inspirational and they can come together in a flash. They are fun and full of promise and there are lots of sustainability ideas around. Google delivers 290 million results for the search term ‘sustainability ideas’.
The conversion of ideas into practical solutions is the hard part. Actions that are actually going to make a difference to human use of natural resources on the ground and at scale. Most of this is just a lot of hard work.
Check any list of ideas for sustainability like these
- 20 ways to be more sustainable in 2020
- 50 ways to be more sustainable at work
- 21 sustainability innovations that might just change the world
They are all fantastic options. Societies everywhere should be onto them and thousands of others like them.
All these ideas have one thing in common. They take effort to implement.
The wondrous inspirations need hard work to achieve their desired outcomes.
Sometimes there is more work required all the time, sometimes just in the transition, but the core message is that sustainability is not an easy task. It’s particularly difficult against the current technological advances that generate cheaper unsustainable products and services.
Being sustainable is not really about the sustainability concept itself, it’s more about the fact that society exists in this process of inspiration and hard work.
We can’t just make a call on the inspiration. There’s a lot of hard work involved in making sustainability solutions stick.
Worth remembering when the next idea to save the planet comes along.
Now I have some editing to do.