I have to admit it, I have had a problem blogging lately. It has been so long it took me a minute to remember how to login and start a new post. It is not that I have writers block in general, its just that I have been out of a blogging mode for a bit since I have been knee deep in grant applications. So why are grants so destructive to the writing process?
The problem with grants is that they such a specific and repetitive form of writing that they suck the creativity and soul out of the writing process. I have spent the last three months working over the same few lines of text, being specific about processes, and focusing on deliverable outcomes. All this is almost the complete opposite of blogging. Blogging should quick and not very time intensive because its not a typical form of academic writing. Blogging is not specific about process or the details of research, its more concerned with communicating ideas to a general audience. Finally, blogging is not about promises and outcomes, it is about highlighting the work you find important or delivering half baked ideas that you are developing.
The strange thing is that now blogging and grant writing are inseparable. Early, the contention was that blogging was harmful to academic prospects, now it is impossible to fill out a grant application without highlighting your dissemination methods and publishing an article or two no longer cuts it. You need to blog, you need to write op-eds, you need to be able to engage a wide variety of outlets in order to succeed.
In any case, I promise to blog more in the future and get my mind back on the process. That said, it might be helpful to review this nice piece on the habits of highly productive writers at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Lots of the advice really hits home. I strive to work on many projects at once, stop at places where it is easy to pick back up again (often in a week or so), finish drafts and see them as works in progress. In short, perfection can be the enemy of a highly productive writer. Being fluid about your work, ideas, and modes of progress is important to keeping productive.
What I do not find helpful is the advice on reading a lot. “Productive writers (should) pay attention to craft and read to steal tricks and moves from authors they admire. Reading becomes a get-psyched activity for writing. Anyone who’s ever assigned (or done) an exercise in imitation knows that.” I am really not sure how imitation is helpful in International Relations. Instead it would be seen as derivative and unoriginal. In exchange for reading more IR work lately, I have taken to reading more popular science fiction in order to not imitate others that I like in our field. This being a heavy teaching semester keeps me engaged in our field and the classics produced by exemplary scholars, but spending more time reading around the research area I am engaging might actually be harmful, in my view.
But what do I know, I couldn’t even blog for over a month…