I’ve often remarked that the beauty of this blog is that more people read here every day than I would reach in even the largest class I teach. Moreover, far more people read this blog than will ever read my peer-reviewed scientific publications. And that’s even considering that we have very modest traffic numbers here for ScienceBlogs.com. Of course, Terra Sig readers are very discriminating – and good-looking, erudite, and probably even smell good, too.
This morning, my Twitter feed brought me a post from the blog, University of Venus, as referred to me by HASTAC Director of New Media Strategy, Ruby Sinreich. (Local readers will recognize Ruby as the far-better half of Carrboro Creative Coworking founder and new media god, Brian Russell, and mother of Izzy.)
Mary Churchill wrote a post there entitled, “Why Do Academics Write?,” a common theme that has emerged in her recent off-blog conversations. Therein, she muses about writing narrow academic books for promotion and tenure that appeal to the select elite in your field versus writing for a broader audience, in her case, on the University of Venus, “a collaborative blog venture bringing together the voices of GenX women in higher education across the globe.”
For those of us in the sciences whose productivity is measured in peer-reviewed research manuscripts, one can ask why we write blogs. Personally, I enjoy the conversation with all of you, fellow scientists as well as folks far afield who happen to be interested in science and drugs. The blog also allows me to explore outside of my field – cancer research – and learn more about such areas as neuroscience and geology and even further to music, history, and, yes, writing. Through this community I’ve also been able to continue my education by learning about issues of gender and racial and ethnic diversity in both the sciences and society. I definitely feel more well-rounded as both an academic and a human being by writing here and engaging with this community. And I am still learning.
As for the argument that blogging is a waste of time and a distraction – well, I may spend about an hour a day writing and give up watching one episode of NCIS. Maybe an additional sporadic half hour doing literature searching, scanning news articles, and reading the writing of others I enjoy and respect or those they recommend.
I’ve also found the blog to be valuable academically, especially in teaching, as a place I can go back to for lecture topics complete with images and links and notes about papers I have read. Comments and related links offered by readers allow me to learn even more because these suggestions come from people who are expert in those fields. Plus, I can also find information on my blog much easier than I can in my file cabinet.
But I’m more interested in why those out there who must write professionally also write for fun, because you want to, not because you have to. I’m not looking only for comments from bloggers but also from those of you who might write poetry, curate a discussion group.
So, why do you write when you don’t have to?