In today’s installment of my conversation with GayProf from Center of Gravitas, we talk about the pitfalls of blogging and the risks it can pose to academic careers. On the other hand: can writing on a blog help one’s academic writing? What’s the shelf-life of blog writing versus academic writing? The audience we reach on our blogs is so much larger than the audience for our academic writing, and yet there’s no question but that the academy privileges academic writing above all (at least for now). Please enjoy eavesdropping on us, and then chime in in the comments, if you have any other burning questions or timeless answers to share!
When last we left GayProf and Historiann in part I, they were discussing the fact that blogs appear to be rewarded more for the quantity of posts than for their quality. Now, they’ll address some of the potential problems it can create in an academic career:
GayProf: For tenure-track academics, blogging can be a bad road. While some argue that it keeps your mind active by writing regularly, it also takes up time that could be spent on other projects (Hello, Never Ending Research Project of Doom, or NERPoD for short). Plus, excepting nasty trolls, the feedback is almost always so rosy and positive on blogs that you can start to think every idea you have is golden. It’s because of the latter that many academics are probably comforted by it. Most of our academic writing usually gets trashed by some of our closest friends two or three times before it makes it into print. A blog seems friendly and nice because people most often only leave positive comments.
For junior and associate professors, it can become an artificial place that might hinder their road to promotion. And, of course, there is also the potential to blur the line between professional/personal that can be a special danger for the untenured (trust me). Aside from Wonder Woman, people still associate my blog with My Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) despite the fact that he hasn’t actually been a specific topic of conversation in years. I suppose everybody loves a train wreck.
Historiann: Many people have asked me recently how my blogging affects my writing–as in, does it make it easier to write an academic article or book? I have to say I don’t know–I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, nor have I ever had a problem getting something done for a deadline (or, well, reasonably close to a deadline.) Do I write easily because I blog, or do I blog because I write easily? I’d have to say I suspect it’s the latter, and not the former, although some of our blogging colleagues have used their blogs in the service of meeting their deadlines for academic writing. (For example, several of the blogs I read participated in InaDWriMo, or International Dissertation Writing Month, last year. Never mind that many were faculty members who presumably had already finished dissertations–the project inspired people to set and meet a writing goal, and they frequently blogged about their efforts.)
GP: Maybe one area where blogging could help academic writing is by cutting down on the verbage (overly long blog posts attract as many readers as yesterday’s still-paper newspaper). Blogging reminds us that writing is often about entertaining as much as informing. I have several books sitting on my desk that are devoid of even a glimmer of entertainment. Learning to write to actually please readers is not a small thing.
H: I worry a little about blogging as a hindrance, as you suggested above, since I’m now among the Associate Professors, many of whom are famously “stalled” on the way to promotion by service obligations or other non-research professional activities. Continue Reading »