Am I wasting my time?
12 March 2011
Feminéma is a blog kept by an academic about things unrelated to her work. Am I wasting my time when I — for example — dedicate 1000 words to singing the praises of a cult movie about female rockers or spitting venom about the lack of attention for films about women and people of color? Shouldn’t I be spending all this time writing another article for academics that’ll help build my career and reputation?
Over at Historiann, the great academic blog kept from a feminist perspective, she commented on this question by noting that “blogs can be spaces that become virtual communities where we can combat isolation and have conversations about our common interests.” It’s a nice point. I can’t tell you the incredible satisfaction I experienced when I realized that people I didn’t know were reading and commenting on this blog. I still get a major charge when someone new comments or subscribes.
But I want to add a couple of things. First, I can’t tell you how great it is to write something and press PUBLISH. Do you know how long it takes to get an academic article published? More than six years, in the case of one of mine — much of which was spent waiting around:
Sept. 2001: Begin writing article.
June 2002: Complete article and send to journal.
Jan. 2004: Receive revise-and-resubmit request from editor of journal.
Nov. 2004: Finish revising article and send back to journal.
June 2005: Receive positive “let’s publish!” recommendation from journal, but they ask for small revisions.
Aug. 2005: Complete revisions and submit “final” draft of article.
Oct. 2006: Copyeditors at journal complete corrections, submit a few queries to me, and ask me to turn around immediately. I do this within days.
May 2007: Receive page proofs from editors at the journal; they ask me to scrutinize to make sure there are no minor errors. I do this within days.
Jan. 2008: Journal issue is finally published and available to other scholars.
Then there’s that other part of academic writing (and one of the reasons it’s so slow to get published): the constant review by other scholars, who can be ungenerous and petty. Sometimes I’ve received strong criticism of my work that made me scratch my head and ask, is this person talking about my article? Writing and revising to both satisfy and please other scholars can be a miserable process that makes me wish I understood psychology a bit more than I do.
But you know what? Keeping this blog reminds me that I love writing, that I can be eloquent in English even if I don’t seem to be in other languages, and that I don’t have to be an expert in something to say smart things about it. I hadn’t realized what a penchant I have for 19th-c. English literature until I found myself writing about all these costume dramas. Not to mention how refreshing it is not to write using multisyllabic terms that, for the right academic readers, evoke a whole host of scholarly and theoretical literatures.
And to be honest, plowing out words here has led me to plow out words on my academic writing projects as well. I love to write — keeping this blog reminds me of that. Doing this kind of frequent writing has loosened up my fingers for getting academic projects drafted and helped me develop a more comfortable writing voice that works for academic writing but is more accessible to lay readers (like my mom, for example).
So while I’m not ready to tell my stodgy colleagues that I’m keeping a blog about feminism and movies, this is no waste of time. And it makes me wonder whether blogging by people like me will alter academic writing down the line — urging quicker turnaround times for published work and more approachable writing styles. Let’s hope.