Writing hard

First of all – sorry for the big gap. I had some pressing deadlines and a job interview, and as such had even less time than usual for introspection. The job interview was on Friday 13th (yeah, good thing I’m not superstitious, I am only a ‘little-stitious’ – HT to Michael Scott). I’m not particularly optimistic but it was good practice and all that. It was my first proper academic interview, so honestly I’m just proud that I didn’t fall on my face. Anyway. Moving on.

I’ve been focussed on two writing projects of late: the first is a paper that was at R&R stage, which a colleague brought me in on to help her address the feedback; the second is a book chapter with the same colleague. Once these are done, I have probably, oh, 7-8 other collaborative papers with friends and colleagues at least at abstract+outline stage, and I’m excited about all of them.

I enjoy writing collaboratively. I like blending my ideas with other people’s and seeing what happens. I like the extra support and motivation it provides – I keep my commitments because I don’t want to let anyone down, and having writing buddies helps me deal with feedback from reviews (otherwise I’m prone to a severe bout of ‘I clearly don’t belong here’).

I’m also enjoying working on stuff that’s not ‘mine’; so far, none of the papers I’m working on are using my data or my case studies, because honestly, I’m not ready to go there yet. Rather, I’m bringing the theories and lenses I’m adept at using to other topics, other people’s research, and so far it’s fun.

Because of the Job Hunt, however, it’s impossible for me to not relate everything I do back to some future job application. How will this look? Will experience writing in this field make me more competitive? What writing projects should I prioritise? Which journals will be the most prestigious AND quickest turn-around? What selection of journals will make me look appropriately interdisciplinary but not like a dabbler?

These concerns, unfortunately, take a little of the joy out of the creative, collaborative experience that is group writing.

I’m also acutely aware that this work is, in a financial sense, speculative. I have a few hours’ work each week as a research assistant, but, unlike a full-time academic, I am not paid to write papers or book chapters. Some of my collaborators are (lucky, well-deserving ducks); I am not. I am doing all this in the hopes that this work will make me more competitive in the job market.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, and even if I never find academic work I will continue to write. But the only reason I’m pushing so hard now, straight after PhD submission and while I’m still burned out and tired from the Giant Thesis, is because I must. Publishing is the only thing I can do to make myself a better candidate; the only part of the whole process I have any real control over. And it’s labour that other people (academic publishers, mainly) will profit from directly – the best I can hope for is indirect profit in the form of a job. At some point.

Thus, I write. And I write hard.

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