There have been a spate of posts lately about why scholars blog. This is not a new genre. People have been encouraging academics to blog for almost a decade now. But as Russell McCutcheon, Thomas Whitley, Adam Miller, and Steven Ramey show, scholars are still thinking about whether or not they should blog and what it means for their careers.
I have a very different experience when it comes to blogging. I’m really not blogging as much as I did in graduate school. There are a couple reasons for this. First, the returns on blogging diminish as one transitions from graduate student to contingent faculty to the tenure track. In the first two stages it’s important to appear active, to cultivate an audience, to make sure people in the field know what you are doing. For all of these reasons, there is a big upside to blogging for non-tenure track scholars. In short, blogging is an asset before you get a tenure track job. Audiences and attention are part of the coin of the realm for the non-TT scholar.
But once you have that job (Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise) a ton of new things drop from the sky and onto your desk. You dissertation is now a book manuscript, you are developing new courses, you are part of a department and it demands things of you, the administration is counting on you and they want research, and you’ve just moved to a new city and are trying to figure that out too. The coin of the realm has shifted to peer reviewed publications, assessments of your teaching, and becoming someone you department can’t function without. Because these are things that your tenure and promotion depend on. The audience reach, the clicks, the shares, the networks, and all that attention blogging might bring you aren’t worth as much.
In my experience, blogging is something you should outgrow as a scholar. Blog early and often in grad school. Take everything your write in your seminars and turn it into a blog. Get on twitter. Blog this, blog that. Blog it all. Blog your dissertation. Blog your conference papers. Instagram the books you’re reading. Tweet the marginalia of your reading. Put it all out there. Build an audience. And do all of this while you do excellent research, write an excellent dissertation, and gain teaching experience. Because you have to be good at everything these days. Build an audience, meet people, make friends online and off. Become the one everyone thinks of whenever your research topic comes up over drinks….”You know, So-and-so is working on that for her dissertation. I really can’t wait for the book…”
Then if whatever gods you propitiate happen to bless you with a tenure track job, stop blogging.
By that point you should have an audience. People should already be interested in what you have to say. Everyone now sees your potential. And it’s time to deliver on it. Write articles, write book chapters, and revise that damn manuscript. Hopefully all that blogging will open up some doors for other, peer-reviewed, writing opportunities. Turn that mountain of potential you’ve ginned up into peer-reviewed research that will get you tenure.
Ok, I have to go write now.