Intellectuals — including graduate students and professors — should read an article a day.
It’s a simple proposition: read an article a day. When you are done, make a quick note on what you have read in your notebook. Over time the notebook grows. And yet I honestly believe few people do this.
Reading regularly is the single most important thing a graduate student can do. We often tell our students their goal is to have an intellectual ‘project’ or ‘plan’ that they are pursuing, and I think sometimes our individualist, inward-looking, creativity-obsessed culture leads students astray: they think that a project comes from somewhere deep inside of them and the way to get at it is a long, semi-mystical period of introspection culminating in a moment of inspiration in which the words “global commodity chains and diasporic populations are considered two touchstones of contemporary globalization, and yet they are rarely considered together. In this theses I examine the emergent interactions between flows of people and objects through an analysis of illegal immigrants working in the landscaping industry and the international trade in expensive and delicate decorative orchids” spring suddenly, unbidden, from their lips.
In fact you develop your own unique voice by immersing yourself in the work of others. Introspection is unbelievably overrated. Projects and plans come from conversations with other thinkers, not through contemplation of your own special snowflakedom. Someone really smart writes something. Your reading and note taking is your response.Yes: reading is a way of responding to someone, not listening to them. Because you are thinking about what you are reading. Doing a little everyday is how you keep your mind and career in forward motion. It should take you about an hour, and you should be able to do it on top of your normal classwork. One article a day six days a week for fourteen weeks is 84 articles. Wouldn’t you like to look back on one semester of work and realize you had read nearly 85 articles and had a big fat database recording what you thought of them?
The number one main job of graduate students is to read. You just have to a read an absolute ton of stuff. There is no substitute for reading. A ton. Of. Stuff.
Professors, sadly, can be just as bad as graduate students. We have more excuses since the vast majority of us are, let’s face it, paid to teach and teaching takes up a lot of our time. But it simply is not that hard to find time to read ONE article a day and write down your thoughts on it. In fact, doing so keeps you young and gets you back in touch with the wider world of scholarship (the “see — I’m not the only person this matters to!” feeling) and keeps your head in the researching and writing game.
An article a day. An article a day. You will become happier, feel less overwhelmed, stay on track with your research, and now more than the fella next door if you just read an article a day. An article a day — it’s all we ask.
(in fact if you want you could even read two)