Academia
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Cheers & Tears: 5 More Reasons for Academics to Blog

This summer marks my second year of blogging, so I thought I’d celebrate by adding to the five lessons I learned in my first year.

1. Blogging connects you to lay readers and fellow scholars. 

While having my post, “Tofu & Tapenade? The Unspoken Rules of Football,” Freshly Pressed in January brought 600 new followers my way, blogging has also connected me more closely with just a handful of folks in a meaningful way. Jan Whitaker (who blogs at Restraunt-ing through history) and I routinely read and comment on one another’s work, which made finally meeting her in person at this summer’s ASFS conference all the more enjoyable. Blogging is also one of the ways I connected with Rachel Lauden, famed food historian, who also blogs and tweets up a storm. If you put your work out there, not only does someone other than your mom and prof read it, people who you cite, admire, and would like to work with can read it too—and that’s when the magic happens.

2. Blogging provides a publication platform that’s always accepting submissions. 

I (mostly) love writing papers from scratch to fulfill specific CFPs that inspire me to start a new project. I (sort of) enjoy editing papers to suit the scope of a particular journal. And I really like writing articles for Zester Daily’s informed, but lay foodie audience. That said, sometimes I want to write and share a piece that doesn’t fit any of those venues. Blogging gives you a platform to share your work and the ability to set free whatever thoughts and ideas you have, whenever you’re ready to put them out into the universe.

3. Blogging cures writer’s block—and the horrible thing that happens before writer’s block. 

I unexpectedly had a rather rough first semester in my PhD program; no one’s fault, just the way the cookie happened to crumble. As I devolved into fits of crying and prolonged stints of binge watching television, I blogged less and less. And as I more rarely put words together, my writing process froze up. Words were hard to come by. Sentences became a painful effort. Full research papers seemed unsurmountable. Usually bursting with ideas to write about, I suffered from the horrible thing that happens before you can even be blessed with writer’s block—I couldn’t even come up with topics. Sob story aside [and don’t worry, it all got done, it just hurt], the lesson here is that blogging (if you keep up with it on a regular basis) is an exercise that keeps your academic writing muscles in top form. Don’t let them get flabby.

4. Blogging establishes your writing track record and builds a portfolio. 

Blogging regularly demonstrates that you can routinely take in information and churn out interesting pieces at a decent pace, a skill valued by editors of websites, magazines, non-academic journals, you name it. If you’re interested in writing for the world outside of the academy (and getting paid for it), blogging is part proof, part portfolio, and it all works in your favor.

5. Blogging means that you’re always the master of your own domain.

When you’re reading something new and difficult, writing a piece that refuses to cooperate, or teaching a course where the class vibe just won’t jive, blogging can provide a small, but meaningful, space where you are always on top and always know what you’re doing. This can help you to remember why you love doing all of this incredibly frustrating and difficult stuff in the first place. We all need opportunities where we get to feel masterful, especially when things aren’t going so well elsewhere, and blogging can do just that, keeping you excited, motivated, and moving forward.

9 Comments

  1. Emily, all true — and I think blogging can also help you to clarify your thoughts on a subject and see connections you hadn’t perceived before.

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    • emilycontois says

      Absolutely! I’ve definitely had blog posts that turned into larger projects that might never have germinated without the blogging process. All best wishes!

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  2. Agreed. I love blogging–it has brought me into contact with food writers, historians, and thinkers of all sorts; it has gotten me freelance gigs, one weird job offer, and some really interesting conversations with friends and acquaintances. I have a slightly different relationship to academia than you–I’ve been ABD for a few years, working full time and lollygagging on the dissertation, and I do sometimes feel that blogging and freelancing is a distraction. So there can be a delicate line to walk, but writing and engaging actively with a smart cohort is extremely rewarding, and I definitely feel like a better writer and thinker because of it.

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    • emilycontois says

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, Sara, especially your experience blogging while balancing dissertation writing. Even if it’s been a bit of a distraction, I’ve so enjoyed reading your work – and look forward to continuing to do so!

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  3. For me #3 is the biggest one. Practicing writing, even non-academic writing, helps me be more creative in my academic writing as well. I think just getting the juices flowing is key. Which is why, despite finishing my dissertation, planning a wedding, and job hunting, I started blogging again. Hopefully practice will make perfect!

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    • emilycontois says

      Agreed. Continually churning out words – in thoughtful tweets, blog posts, even Goodreads reviews of ridiculous romance novels – helps my writing overall. And I’m glad to read that we share public health in common. Best of luck getting back to blogging and balancing it all — and thanks for reading and commenting!

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  4. Bill Farley says

    Spot on. I just saw that the Virginia Writers Club is allowing blogs to be submitted for their literary awards. That will give the medium a boost.

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    • emilycontois says

      I didn’t know that, Bill, but agree that it is a positive step for blogs to be recognized as a form of literature. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  5. Pingback: Post #100: Advice for Vegemite Virgins on Australia Day | Emily Contois

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