I found a (badly scanned) paper on how to concentrate. It’s a so-so article, but there is at least one gem in it:
remember that solitude has always been, in all the history of mental achievement, a requisite for great work. (…) The great poems written in lonely garrets—the masterpiece paintings conceived by the artist amid the fields—the divine harmonies first heard by the musician communing with the stars—the sublime oration which first stirred the soul of the orator as he tramped in the forest—all attest that the best comes to man when he is alone.
This is interesting. I always found that some people complained I spent too much time in front of the computer… maybe that is what it means to be lonely. The funny thing is that nowadays it is a lot harder to be alone. Maybe alone is just a romantic surrogate for ‘uninterrupted’ I don’t think the mood implications of lonely help in any way, unless you are producing poetry, music or plastic arts… but certainly not papers.
So, do you feel lonely? Do you seek time apart from ‘the world’? It’s true that most academics’ social lives suck (not mine ). But what is the right causal path here? Do we kill our social lives so we can get ‘in the state’ more often and be productive? Or is it the other way around: we are ‘in the state’ so often that social relationships just die off?
One thing is true: having an internet connection provides constant, second-class (in the sense that it’s not as rich as real-life interaction) social stimulation; being in front of the computer is not a certain way to achieve ‘the state’ (lonely or not). But maybe a good solution is to concentrate a lot (no surrogate activities, like me writing this blog post while I should finishing up my paper), and then get a lot of first-class, ‘live person’ social action.