Reading, writing, and flailing


As I stared at the screen thinking about this blog post, this “helpful” WordPress noticed appeared with its calming red hue and encouraging “!”.

I am starting a new project on the emergence of bioethics in Australia. Well, actually I am 12 months 16 months in. I have been reading. There is always a lot to read. Yet I haven’t written much. I have been writing a lot, but little seems to be related to the project.

To help get myself and this project together I have started reading Finding Time for Your Scholarly Writing by Jo VanEvery. I’ll admit, it does feel like procrastination to read a book about writing rather than just write.

VanEvery helpfully talks about writing as a process (that does include reading) and that while not everything that is written will turn into a conference paper, article or book ‘all writing is worthwhile if it helps move your thinking forward’.

To that end I am going to try and use this blog in a more intentional way to establish a writing practice.

Establishing a writing practice

During my PhD (2007-2011) I used my blog a lot more regularly for “non-output driven” writing. It helped establish a practice and habit of writing that contributed to my thesis in a variety of ways – content, style, development and rejection of ideas etc.

For a number of reasons that habit slowed during post-docs (2011-2017). This was partly due to the pressure of publishing, as well as wanting to avoid airing half-baked ideas in public (this was before Twitter). The emergence of platforms like The Conversation and other websites that seek content from scholars is also partly to “blame” – why write a blog post for a few hundred readers when the same piece could receive thousands of “clicks”?

Anyway, as I “get into the teeth” of this new(ish) project, I hope to re-establish a habit of writing. Following VanEvery’s advise I plan to use this blog to write regularly about my project on the emergence of bioethics in Australia in the hope that:

The relationship between time spent focused on your writing project and visible outcomes isn’t direct. Some days it feels like you have accomplished practically nothing, but struggling with your ideas impacts what you are able to write another day.

As I struggle with how to write a history of the emergence of bioethics in Australia, I will reflect on the research and writing process. I may share more from VanEvery’s book, but I also plan write about the substance of the project – what I have found in archives, methodological questions I am struggling with, and other tangential thoughts that may produce fruit or whither on the vine.

Feel free to share tips, recommendations, or questions in the comments.

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