Taking breaks from writing & research?




In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

Does anyone have advice for what an early scholar might do while taking a break from writing? I’m in a post-doc and feel a bit(lot) burnt out on writing, having done it at a blistering pace for so, so many years. I’m starting some time “off” from this particular aspect of my career and hoping to spend more time reading, exploring philosophy, and perhaps other things.

Has anyone taken a similar sort of break from writing? How was it? Do people have tips as to how to stay engaged with philosophy even if not through new research projects?

This is a great query, and I’m curious to hear how readers respond. I myself go through peaks when I feel inspired to do write and do research and troughs where I feel worn out and uninspired (often when, like the OP, I’ve worked at a blistering pace for a while). And I’ve found it to be helpful to listen to what my body and mind are telling me, as it were. In fact, I’m taking one of these breaks right now, as I’ve been working really hard the past several months and feel like I need some time to recoup.

When I’m feeling worn out, I’ll take a break and focus on other things for a while–either other aspects of work (e.g. trying to teach a particular course really well), and/or hobbies (such as writing and recording music, listening to podcasts, or reading historical nonfiction). Oddly, I’ve found that many of these hobbies can be great (and unexpected) sources of inspiration for new philosophical projects–so, it’s sort of like “doing research without doing research.” To be clear, I don’t pursue hobbies looking to mine them for philosophical ideas. I often just find that new ideas occur to me out of the blue when doing other things for pleasure.

On “how to stay engaged with philosophy” during these periods of time, I guess the only thing that I really do is to visit the PhilPapers “new items” fairly regularly feed so that I at least know which new papers are coming out. And sometimes, if I see things that seem interesting and relevant to potential future projects, I’ll just save them to read later (or maybe just skim them quickly to see if I want to save them and revisit them with more care later, when I’m feeling more up to returning to research).

Anyway, this is sort of what I do. I often find that the itch to start writing again, and my enthusiasm to do research, return after several weeks or a few months–but again, I try not to force it (unless I’m feeling listless taking a break, in which case sometimes I will!).

But again, this is just what I do. What about you all? Do you take breaks from research, and if so, what do you find works well for you and why? And how do you “stay engaged with philosophy” during these periods?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More