Over the past few months, I have been focusing on writing up a lot of the research I carried out in the early part of the year. Part of me feels that this should be fun and easy, but the physical experience is anything but… Every time I set time aside to write, I end up staring at a blank word document for hours on ending trying to think of something to put on the page. I have tried numerous methods to get the creative juices flowing. Careful planning, warm-up exercises, setting time limits, reading before writing, not reading before writing – I have tried it all. Time deadlines only pile on the pressure creating even more of a block with zero words coming to mind. If I do manage to get a rhythm going, I often get stunted by editing. I will rewrite and rewrite a sentence, only to lose the trajectory of the paragraph. But, if I don’t edit my writing feels awkward and I lose any sense of what I was trying to say. In the end I get angry, and feel like an idiot who should never have gone into this profession in the first place.
Before I let the imposter syndrome completely set in, I have been thinking about why writing is so difficult. Numerous academic blogs have proven to me that I am not the only one who struggles and most of my senior colleagues have even said that writing is one of the most difficult tasks as academic has to face. Let’s face it though. In academia, though we can claim that public engagement presentations, conferences, workshops, podcasts and even blogging can help shape a winning CV – 4* published articles and monographs are the real marks of success!
I am one year out of my PhD and I feel an immense amount of pressure to write articles, publish a monograph and specialised music publications i.e. an edition and while I have been actively working on all of these at once, I am highly aware of the time it takes to produce these items. I want to dedicate as much time to these projects as possible to ensure quality, but at the same time, my time is limited since I am working on these very much on my free time. I often feel when I do give time to these projects I have to produce something of quality quickly and when I cannot string the right words together or think of something significant to say, I feel like an utter failure.
There is such an emphasis on publishing that without a stellar publication record, it is unlikely I will be called to interview. It is a catch 22 situation – I need a job that pays me well enough that I have time to write, but I need to dedicate time to writing to get a job that will pay me well. The publishing world doesn’t make it any easier, when it can take may months for an article to be published let alone a monograph.
I realise this post offers no solutions and that many academics, particularly ECRs are facing the same problem. However, sometimes I do wish that I didn’t have to weigh up short term projects that will put food on my table now with longer term career aspirations.