As I’ve kept this blog over the years, I’ve had many different reactions from my peers and mentors about my ability to remain consistent with it.
Some have expressed that it’s an odd experience to read the blog. I’ve been told that being in the room during an event then later reading my description of the happening is a touch surreal (I can understand how this might be true).
By and large, the most common reaction that I’ve been privy to is an incredulity at my ability to keep writing and my ability to find time to devote to this project.
I will be honest, writing has almost never been a struggle. I’m a writer. Writers want to write. I have, sometimes, found myself awash with a plethora of possibilities for blog content, and sometimes I have been in the blogging doldrums with nothing that I can really relate. I’ve also been in the situation where I’m dealing with something that I would love to craft a blog post about it, but for political or personal reasons I am not able to at that given moment. Sometimes, I’m able to shelve these ideas for later use. More often than not, I have to consent that I will be unable to put my thoughts into writing about an issue at hand in a public forum until I have tenure and, at that point, the issue will (hopefully) be rendered moot.
Throughout my early PhD experience, writing was an important exercise for me.
During coursework, you can spend a whole semester without writing a single page, then be expected to spit out at least 100 pages of pristine, intelligent, and interesting writing at the semester’s end. This doesn’t set a very sustainable pace for the tasks ahead.
During my comps prep, writing was important because it kept me on-task, and gave me the practice of spitting out focused content in a small time window. One of the skills which these exams test, but is extremely difficult to study for, is your ability to craft a cogent piece of writing under extreme stress and pressure. I’ve known that, for some of my forbearers, this was the most stressful portion of the exam. Because I’m used to creating such content blasts (thanks to my writing here), it was the least of my concerns.
Now that I’m into dissertation work, writing is more important than ever. Unfortunately, it’s even harder than it used to be to push myself to do it.
You see, this process is a long and drawn out one. It’s a process of thinking BIG DEEP THOUGHTS over a substantial period of time. As such, I’m engaged in work that doesn’t necessarily leave me with cogent bits of information at the end of the day. Blog posts require something that can be discussed in a certain space. The things that I’m currently entrenched in are long, drawn-out battles… and not ones that I’m necessarily willing to share. As much as I would love to live in an open-source world, Intellectual Property is a real and ever-present element of any academic’s work. Especially an unpublished graduate student. I really can’t let you in on my research process in detail that’s too great, which is really a pity because (trust me) it’s fascinating.
So as much as I’d love to share my triumphs and tribulations as I go along, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to stick to the abstract for the moment… and for the foreseeable future.
In terms of finding time to blog, I can’t articulate how worthwhile an exercise this is. I’ve given you some reasons above as to why this might be. If you’re currently writing a dissertation and NOT actually doing any writing on a weekly basis (it may sound weird to an outsider, but trust me it’s very easy to do), I can’t recommend the experience of blogging highly enough. It helps to order your thoughts and keep you together. It allows you to achieve small goals throughout the week, and that will create a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment your work often lacks since your large goals are a long ways off. Blogging is a great way to give you structure (which, as we all know, is key to any work regime, especially a free-form one like dissertation work). And, at the risk of sounding like a romantic, it’s sometimes nice to have a physical manifestation of your work and time to look back upon.
Even if you don’t choose to share your thoughts in an open public forum, you should consider a journal, or a private blog, or just somewhere to put a collection of your writing as you go through this process. It might be worth something to you someday, and the process is definitely worth something to you right now.