April 29, 2007

Blogus Christ, My Savior

Category: Academic,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 10:34 am

Academics in the humanities and social sciences often struggle with their writing. I just figured that as you did more and more, you got better and better. Well this recent post by Radical Tenure was pretty eye opening because she confesses about losing her writing groove (in part because of sh*t going down at her university) and then she gives a fascinating account about how blogging “saved” her. Now I am stunned because her writing is pretty darn succulent. Really. I love reading her( and am proud that she is a lady blogger too given how many males dominate the “famous” scene).

Now I am more inspired because I think indeed writing, especially in very competitive environments, can be a torturous and fraught task. And while it may get easier, there are circumstances that may derail even the strongest of writers.

It is great to see this confronted head-on, in ways positive, honest, inspiring.

Here are the relevant bits:

Another reason being anonymous didn’t work for me is really internal to Zen – er, Wesleyan, stultifying features of which I was trying to escape following the Unfortunate Events. Like being watched and talked about all the time and treated like yesterday’s news for having done the teaching and institutional work I was asked to do while struggling to find time for my scholarship even as other people were chosen to be groomed as “the scholars.” What happened to me during the last three years nearly destroyed me as a writer and an intellectual (I am actually not joking about this), and I had to start all over again, recreating a literary voice for myself and a confidence that I could command an audience with my thoughts and prose, from the ground up. It was either that or quit. ….
Do not dare feel sorry for me about this, and let me underline the point: I am a highly privileged, senior faculty member at a very wealthy institution, and many other bloggers are not. Furthermore, regardless of this messy coming-out period, my strategy actually worked. Because of this blog *and its audience*, I was able to start writing again, to finish articles that were lying about undone, to write a book review for the Village Voice, to write a book proposal, to get going on revising the book that various people and committees eliminated all over during the Unfortunate Events, to do a ton of research on a new project and to begin speaking about some critical reforms that might really help faculty – on the right and the left – enjoy their work as academics again. In other words: I Saved Myself. And I have been transformed into something more powerful as a result of my trials.


  1. Hi B,
    I was just pondering the internets and the dialog that it allows. For a blog, you write it to flesh out ideas in your head, perhaps waiting for a response from within. In a pre-net age, you’d perhaps have a dead-tree facsimile with a lock and glare at it in the odd moment of reflection. But the net allow the comments you write to be strewn out into the ether and to be sent to other beings who are on your wavelength like perhaps the borg idea, in a helpful way. These beings digest your thoughts and give you insights, feedback, pointers and even inspiration, in return. Something a diary of old, did not, because of its non-live, non-interactive nature. So, it seems that this person is noticing the benefits of having this community. Something geeks have been privy too as early members of the interconnected network and usenet.

    Comment by Kevin Mark — April 29, 2007 @ 3:23 pm

  2. Kevin,

    Actually in this case I think the dynamic is slightly different. Many of her posts were not academic or were not posted to get feedback but simply were interesting musings about life in academia. Many of the comments surely commented on her insights but it is not that she got feedback on her academic work, which made it stronger as is the case with a lot of software development).

    I think basically by garnering an audience that liked her posts, it gave her the confidence and boost to accomplish work.

    Collaboration in academia does happen although I still think most of it still happens offline in exchanging papers and presenting work at conferences… Blogs may aid a little in this regard, but my feeling is most of the heavy lifting of collaboration in academia (well in the social sciences and humanities) happens in this old-fashioned way.


    Comment by Biella — May 1, 2007 @ 7:01 am

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