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. 

OVER SIX YEARS. This journal was especially slow in turning things around, but it’s not out of keeping with other experiences I’ve had. Do you see why pressing PUBLISH is so great?

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.

2 Responses to “Am I wasting my time?”

  1. JustMeMike Says:

    Well said, and your post on Middlemarch was well done. I was not familiar with Middlemarch having not seen it, not read about it, or even heard of it. Until now. But I did enjoy reading your post on it.

    Blogging is fun. You get a sense of accomplishment just from the writing and the bonus is that other people do read it.

    I know I do enjoy pushing the “Publish” button. My only problem with it is that I usually push it too soon. Virtually all my posts need adjustments, or corrections of typos, and or I revise because I came up with a better way of saying something… after publication.

    Speaking about films about female rockers, I just read a review in the Japan Times Online about The Runaways (2010) –

    You’re probably familiar with this film, but I don’t think you have written about in your blog. While this review was written by a guy – Giovanni Fazio, the film was directed by a woman. The reviewer discusses The Runaways along with True Grit. He calls the piece: Girls on Film: Teen Six-Stringers vs Teen Six-Shooters.

    Actually there are two pieces on The Runaways. The review (above) and a entertainment feature piece on the band itself below.

    Take note that the pages will not load quickly or at all given the power cuts in Japan. But I did get to read these pieces today, so the links do work.

    I read the Japan Times Online usually for film reviews by Kaori Shoji. She didn’t do this review – but that is how I found the pieces on The Runaways.


    • Didion Says:

      I had been so excited to see The Runaways — but ugh. Was it my high expectations? Or was it, like I said way back in April, it’s an overly cliched film that grants a lot of the band’s songwriting and energy credits to its charismatic, Svengali-like manager?

      Someday I’ll see it again and maybe the movie’s cult-like elements will come through; I won’t look at it quite so much for what it fails to do as a regular movie.

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