Scattered Links – 10/26/2008 (Writing Edition)

“Why I Blog” by Andrew Sullivan is a great overview of one blogger’s story. I think he articulates a lot of viewpoints that I share. For one, he talks about the inherent risk of blogging, with the lack of a safety net and vulnerability that comes with voluntarily making your thoughts and words open to the world: “But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.” I occasionally wonder whether mentioning my blog in grad school applications would be seen as a positive or a negative. Like it or not, there are still a lot of academics who mistrust blogging.

Happy two-year blogiversary to Claire Potter at Tenured Radical. In another “Why I Blog,” she recently posted a wonderful piece about the rewards and challenges of academic writing. One of my favorite excerpts:” Blogging also allows me to write short pieces, work on form, voice, and getting complex ideas across to an audience that I need to entice in order to keep them reading. I sometimes compare it to a pianist playing scales: to the extent that blogging is not, perhaps, the most serious scholarly form, to take it seriously is to become a better writer.” Although comparing blogging to playing scales certainly dampens the enjoyment of the process, it’s certainly encouraging to think that it’s actually good for me as well.

Ian Kershaw wrote a breezy article in the Washington Post musing about how he approaches writing history. He follows a very meticulous routine, which apparently allows him to produce around 2,000 words a day. Impressive stuff. The article also makes me wonder what percentage of academics are regular coffee drinkers. 90%? More than the population at large? Less? Coffee seems to be the true backbone of American higher education.

At Edge of the American West, Scott Kaufman has a great post detailing a talk he gave on a “Blogging and the Academy” panel. The post is noteworthy for both its strong content, but also his choice of posting the paper as he used it to give the talk. As such, it does not read as a typical academic paper: “when I write a talk, I write a talk. I don’t write an essay that just so happens to be read aloud.” Great words of advice, and ones that I wish more academics would take to heart.

Finally, at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Thomas H. Benton’s “Yearning After Books” discusses academics’ increasing anxiety over the supposed disappearance of the written book. Benton articulates a common nostalgia for the tactility and tradition of a book, especially compared to increasing digitization efforts. At first I rolled my eyes at this antiquated notion, but then realized (after stopping at a used book sale and giddily leaving with four of them) that despite my best efforts, I haven’t yet eradicated the snobbish academic reverence for the bound volume.