Captain's Log Issue #86 - Completion
Julian Stodd, October 2019

I always struggle to complete things: no end of books on my shelf are 95% read, but I loath finishing the final chapter. In my own work, I have half a dozen manuscripts that are nearly complete: some need one more chapter, some need one more edit, one just needs the bibliography tidied up. But completion is an act of consequence: for as long as I am ‘still writing’, the work can be imperfect. But once it is done, it is an act of performance. It must be right.

The notion of #WorkingOutLoud is a defence against this: it's a preemptive way of avoiding criticism, by accepting that work is not complete, in some ways, it is never complete. But even with that defence, it can be hard to let go.

The Apollo book, which I will publish in November, was so easy to write that I keep thinking ‘maybe I should make it longer’, but that is a route to failure. Stories do not have to be long to be perfect. Indeed, they do not have to be perfect to be perfect! What they need is an honesty, and a vulnerability. Imperfect work can make a good story, if the reader can invest themselves in it.

I guess that is true of my wider work: it holds few answers, but I hope it has plenty of spaces for others to invest themselves. They can take it forward, they can refute it, they can ignore it, all of which is an act of validation in some way. Not that I feel the need for validation: once you have claimed a permission to be wrong, and if you are endlessly curious, both of which defences I employ, then you are on quite safe ground.

When asked what the greatest gifts are that one can bring to one’s work, I usually say uncertainty and ignorance. Because only from a recognition of our imperfection, and a willingness to learn, can we hope to complete the next step of a journey that is inevitably, and by design, one without end.


My Writing

Very unusually for me, I have found writing harder over the last couple of months: partly as a result of the new reality of fatherhood, partly what I can only call a ‘recovery’ from the death of my father, and partly because I'm just as busy as everyone else and there are only so many hours in the day. Whilst I’ve tried to be kind to myself about this, I am trying to reinforce the discipline of daily writing, as that is the foundation of my thinking, and of any success I have so far.

The Galileo Story

This is one of the final sections of the Learning Science Guidebook, but it was actually one of the first sections I made notes for, in the empty structure. I knew where I wanted to end up, and in reality, this piece is significantly shorter than I had expected, but I feel it says what I want to say.

Words About Learning

Long term readers of the blog will be familiar with the Words About Learning series of posts: as per the above, these are very short posts that I tend to write when too busy, or unmotivated, to write anything at all. They are deliberately short, two paragraphs, or 150 words, illustrated with a photo, so take next to no time to write. Therefore, they are pieces with no excuses: to write it demonstrates to me that I am holding true to the idea of writing. And to fail to write one is to deliberately fail.

This piece explores Curiosity, something that is close to the front of my mind as I explore some cultural work.

What I'm Reading

I’m reading ‘Inside the Dream Palace - the life and times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel’. It’s part of a long term fascination with New York, and I really started looking at The Chelsea as part of the New York Dereliction Walk last year.  

Established as a utopian experiment in creating an artistic community, the philosophy behind the hotel came from France, and a series of failed, or failing US attempts to set up ideal mixtures of members to forge self-sustaining communities, free from the constraints of typical economies.
The Chelsea Hotel has a long and fascinating history, which this book uncovers, but more than that it provides a hugely comprehensive journey through American literature and art, drawing out some fascinating dynastic waves which were new to me.

The Hotel itself forms something of a backdrop to this narrative, but it’s a terribly interesting story.

What I'm Thinking About

I’ve enrolled on a module with the Open University about Systems Thinking: I did so with some reticence, partly due to the time required, and partly due to my self awareness of how poor a student I make. But in the end, I jumped, for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s easy not to learn. I feel that my frames of understanding are broad and comfortable, and I read a lot, so I have that covered right? Well, I do, but within those existing frames: sometimes external stimuli can nudge us into new frames of thinking, and that is what I hope to take from this module.

And secondly, because metacognition is important: thinking about how we think. In this case, thinking about how I think about systems: I often describe my own work as systemic, so it may be useful to consider alternative perspectives as to what exactly that means.

I will #WorkOutLoud as I complete (or fail to complete) the module, and see where I go from there. Ideally, I’d love to shape a research degree around some of my current research work, but experience from my earlier postgrad days reminds me to jump carefully. It turns out there really are only so many hours in the day, and not even coffee will stretch them out forever.


If you enjoyed this, please sign up and share here:

Copyright © 2019 Julian Stodd, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp