I’m an academic. For several years, post-tenure, I found myself bored with my job. That’s not the case anymore. I love my new job!
But back when I was bored, I was looking for some inspiration and, in a weird way, my boredom pushed me in new directions. How was I bored? Well, mainly I found myself bored with traditional approaches to writing – something I had to do on a regular basis.
Traditional Writing is Boring
When I first started graduate school I was super excited about writing and publishing. I have always enjoyed writing. When I started my job after graduation I was totally into my writing. Writing, at the time, provided me with an intellectual challenge. I got something out of it, and I was pretty good at it.
But somehow, over time, I have grown more wary of traditional academic writing. And by that I mean writing for scholarly journals that few people read. I know people read my work. I know because they write to me or talk to me about it at conferences. I’ve got accounts on Academia.edu and ResearchGate. I know from the analytics these places send me that people pay attention to me. Heck, I just noticed that some of my papers on Academia have little trophies next to them. I don’t know what that means, but it must be good, right?
My Academia account (which I refer to more here since I’ve had it longer than the one at ResearchGate) says I’ve had 52,229 views. In the last 30 days, I had 1,638 views and of those 1,355 were unique – so I guess some people felt the need to come back more than once. I offer these numbers because I think they are at least some evidence that my work is being given at least a cursory glance. So maybe all this mumbo-jumbo about nobody looking at my work isn’t really true….
I’ve gotten off topic. It doesn’t matter how many of you run right out and read one of my papers right now. That doesn’t take away from the fact that I am finding traditional academic writing to be boring.
Why is that?
I don’t know if I’m sure exactly, but some of my initial thoughts are because:
- I’m not challenged at all by the writing up of the manuscript. That doesn’t mean I can bang one out without issue. It’s just that the form is the same for them – by and large – and I’ve got that down pat. Yes, the content changes, and yes, I do like my research, but I’m finding myself less motivated to write these articles.
- My perception that no one reads them. Maybe I am wrong here. Maybe more people read them than I realize BUT not enough people read them. My articles are trapped in a tiny little academic box. If you don’t go looking for them, you will not find them.
- My belief that there have got to be better, and more interesting ways, to spend my time as a writer. By better, I mean there must be ways that can improve my connections with a greater audience (beyond academics) and that are not so lock-step in style. This blog would be one example.
I do love writing my blog posts. Yes, there is an immediacy in terms of you being able to read it as soon as I wish to make the text available, but it also allows me to write about current issues now. Do you know how long it takes to get a current research issue to publication? Two-three years at a minimum (from the time a project is started until the first paper off it is published). That’s bad. And I’m bored with that approach. Do you know I have an article that went to press in November 2012 but which will not be published until 2016? What the heck is up with that?
What to Do About It?
Well, this blog is one of the things I do about it. It’s how I respond to my boredom with typical academic writing. It’s how I address, at least in part, issues I have with the publication process. I’ve written three books, but did you know that two of them are e-books? I walked away from a potential contract with a publisher because my heart wasn’t in traditional book publishing anymore. I just couldn’t get excited about doing all the work needed for the proposal, then spending a year or so on the book, and then waiting for it to come out. Just not interested.
I mean, honestly, I’m currently in love with exploring different modes of communication which includes this fantastic video on Derrida:
Which I found because I joined the FB group Buzzademia.
And the Derrida video, and other things like it, are appealing to me. They are short, can be mass-consumed, and involve a different way of thinking about how we present our ideas and who we have access to present them to.
That’s not to say that I think all forms of writing done by academics should be intended for mass consumption. But what I am saying is this:
Traditional academic writing and publishing is limiting in many ways. I am finding the whole process to be tedious and boring. I’m not saying I should do away with traditional academic writing, but I need to get out and explore some other avenues.
Where do you stand?