Research has the potential to move in many different directions. There are constraints, sure. But regardless of where one starts, multiple paths reveal themselves at each step. Choosing a path is crucial for making progress. Moreover, revisiting and refining the intentions motivating one’s travels down a particular path is important. There is always value in asking why we’re doing the work we’re doing. Asking and answering this question is like steering the rudder on a boat.
One of the challenges that I find myself coming up against every now and again has to do with which interests to pursue and which to abandon. Looking up at the whiteboard near my desk I see the following list of papers that are in various stages of completion:
- scientific theories
- most read/most cited theory
- interactivity clutter
- big questions
- knowledge claims
All of these papers (and some that aren’t listed) are really interesting and important. But there are other topics that are interesting and important to me too: curiosity, memory, particle physics, isaac newton and richard feynman, innovation, asking questions, non-fiction narrative, and research. Each of these is a huge topic. And they’re all interesting. And I don’t want to abandon any of them. But some are more important personally or professionally than others.
So, what to do?
In addition to reading books, chapters, articles, etc. that are relevant to the six papers listed above I decided to start reading at least two other nonfiction books on topics of interest and a work of fiction. I started a few weeks ago with these books: Moonwalking with Einstein, Curious, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
So far I’ve spent 60-90mins per day (between pomodoros, during meals, or at the end of the day) indulging extracurricular interests, which as it turns out has been something of a boon to my research and writing. I’ve been seeing new connections and opportunities within existing content and experiencing increased motivation and moments of sudden inspiration.