I love writing. REALLY love writing. I want a job in academia because it means I can write for a job. I am often asked why I don’t set up a consultancy business that could potentially bring in far more cash than a post-doctoral fellowship. Cash is very tempting, but in all honesty, do you do something for the love or the money? When it comes to writing, I choose love and I don’t care where or how I am doing it, I just want to do it.
The need to write is physical. I feel it welling up from my abdomen, tingling through my arms and down to my fingers. I don’t pretend to be a good writer, just a bit addicted. Hopefully one day I will be good. The only way to get good is to practice.
I have a few techniques I use to satisfy the urge. I find sticking to the same old same old academic writing genre a bit dry. I know that ultimately, the academic journals are going to provide my bread and butter, but why can’t I have fun along the way?
Twitter provides me with an immediate release. When an idea starts to develop inside me, I can’t keep up with the ideas that are coming. In the old days, someone might have carried around a notepad. I carry around my smartphone. Trying to frame the thought within 140 characters also helps refine the thought. My old notepads were never searched as much as my tweets.
The one night stand
Blogging is what I do when my ideas are not quite developed enough for academic consumption. I experiment with how they fit together. I pour them all onto a page. This is usually done late at night. Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed in the morning, but you know what? No one really cares. Very few people read it. It is easily deleted. Most of the time, they just accumulate as fun memories in my little black book. Sometimes they lead to something else.
50 shades of blogging
I want to explore a body of work. A colleague recently shared a theoretical paper with me and I think I might use it as a basis for a series of blogs. The paper is full of so many ideas that resonate with me that I want to take the time to process them all. Taste them all a bit at a time and see if there is anything stimulating for my own conceptual framework. I won’t necessarily relate them to things I know a lot about, I just want to play with things that interest me. When I’m done, I may have more of an idea how to conceptualise and analyse my research.
I have only just begun to contribute to professional open access publications (blogs, journals, media etc). I have been submitting a quick reworking of a blog post to see what happens. I haven’t been invested in publishing but I wanted to know how it worked. I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience. The editors have been very kind. They have seen the potential in my ideas and pushed me to be more precise in my thinking or think a bit harder. I have learned a lot about writing for different audiences and in different genres.
Sunday afternoon leisure
I am currently writing a chapter for a book. I like the more relaxed style that comes with the chapter genre. My voice is more dominant so it feels a little indulgent. This is a slower but still enjoyable. Punctuated by intensity and rest. It still has a deadline but a long one.
Keeping the relationship going
Ahhh journal writing. This is the one with the most pressure. It is formulaic and doesn’t sit naturally with me. Pressure isn’t a bad thing and journal writing is necessary for a good relationship with the academy so I will keep a regular schedule. All the “fun” writing should help. Practice for the real game.
The thing is, if journal article writing was all the writing I was doing, I don’t think I would write much. I would sit frozen in front of my computer, surf the internet and go get three coffees. The pressure is immense and there is so much to say that won’t fit in one journal article. All the other ways to scratch the itch has made it much easier.
How do you do it?