Thank goodness for this
obligation opportunity to reflect. And it really is an opportunity. Because meditating on your experiences and coming up with a narrative about your progress (or lack thereof) can lead to an unexpected diagnosis or even generate a much-needed sense of accomplishment.
Reading through my co-bloggers’ posts on their year-in-writing has stirred up feelings of relief, empathy, joy, and excitement. Our relationship to writing is constantly in flux, and we are paying attention to that. We are thing-searchers, as Lynn says, and we respond to that impulse. At least we try to.
Of course we don’t always meet our writing or professional goals, and sometimes we read this as a failure (especially when we set *really* high goals for ourselves—and when we have full time jobs, loved ones, and other passions to attend to!). I met some of my goals in 2018, but not all of them. Who ever does?
I’ve been in transition this year, which has meant a lot of writing for committees (translation: I’ve written all the statements). But what else have I put on paper?
- I wrote 2 conference papers. (One of them ended up being on a topic that I really loved and might inspire a longer-form project.)
- I flipped one of the conference papers into an article, which is now out for review.
- I reworked a section of a dissertation chapter, strengthened the argument, and also sent it out for review.
- I wrote an (accepted) abstract for an international conference, which will allow me to improve a dissertation (future book?) chapter.
- I created a new syllabus on gender and sexuality in contemporary women’s writing in French.
- I’ve also generated textual and visual content for my digital archive project featuring Fisk’s Rosenwald collection.
- And I’ve been blogging here (!)
What have I learned from all these writing experiences? What are my lessons from 2018?
(1) Now that I’ve been out of grad school for a year and a half, I’ve finally found the time and mind space to become intimate with my own writing process.
(2) My career is in flux, and so is my writing. I am a writer in transition looking for more publishing venues. This year, I’ve sought out primarily academic venues. But what does the future hold?
More on the first part.
Being out of grad school and in NTT positions has allowed me to breathe a little and to approach writing more at my own pace. Consequently, I’ve learned that the writing process always takes me a little longer than expected, and that there’s no reason to get worked up about this every time I approach my own rigorous deadlines. Actually, things always end up working out. I have also accepted that writing a “shitty first draft” is part of my creative process, and this step requires a little extra time to get the work done.
I’ve also realized that I’ve been avoiding my dissertation like the plague. But have I been avoiding it because dissertation writing wasn’t the most pleasurable experience? Because I needed a breather? Or because I just don’t think it’s worth the effort? I’m not totally sure, and that’s okay for now. My colleagues tell me that taking a yearlong break from the dissertation is normal, maybe a pinch more. I’ve recently passed that mark, and am just now feeling open to the idea of revisiting it and taking on the necessary work to start transforming it into a book. One of my colleagues at Fisk just lent me From Dissertation to Book (2nd ed.) by William Germano. I’m going to use this book as stimulation to think about next steps for this project in 2019, answer some of those questions above, and see where it goes. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to explore new topics related to my research interests.
And on being in transition…
I had actually never submitted a piece of work to an academic journal before this year. The dissertation had always been the summit I was trying to reach. And then I got so focused on trying to apply for jobs that I was spending less time making myself a more viable candidate for said jobs. And also, no rejection is easier than (a lot of) rejection. But this year, I’m exploring new terrain. I decided it was time to put my work out there and see how others react. I’ve experienced some rejection and emerged with a healthy dose of loathing, followed by periods of reassessment, resilience, and onward movement. I count this as a success and a normal marker of transition into the career of an early scholar.
I want to keep testing the waters of academic writing. But I also want to find my voice in other genres. To find exciting ways to talk to others about things that really fascinate me. Sometimes writing in the academic genre can feel like work. Work taken up to please others … journal editors, dissertation committees, hiring committees. And I’ve been focused almost solely on producing academic work for such academic audiences. But writing for SWW for the past several months has been a fantastic step in a different (but adjacent) direction.
So, writing goals for 2019?
I’ve recently fallen in love with smart women (some with PhDs, some not) who have taken up staff writing positions at magazines and journals and become independent authors (not connected to a university) and editors (at academic and non-academic presses). I am excited at the idea of following in their footsteps by pursuing a more public-facing writing venue. I want to hear more about what brought them to writing, what fueled their writing careers, and to use this as inspiration for my own potential directions.
Ultimately, I want to take advantage of this career-in-transition. To seriously consider new audiences for my thoughts. To take more time to do some writing for me without immediately considering how it’s going to affect my CV. I guess I want to equate “writing” with “work” a little less, and see how that makes my writing a little more daring and a little more wide-reaching.