Long ago, when I heard or read about the huge pressure continuously faced by serious and appreciated academics to publish as much as possible (following the overused and abused slogan “publish or perish“), I was extremely surprised – if not automatically cynical. How could an academic do anything else but write? Day and night, night and day, this was and continues to be, in my opinion, the main task of an academic. If you have something to say, you should say it through the power of your words. Such worries may be an expression of inadequacy to the noble mission of an academic and intellectual in general.
My optimistic opinion on the bright future of book writing was equally confirmed by the rapid multiplication of publishing possibilities over the last few years. The Internet opened the door to various alternatives to the usual long, pricey and painful traditional publication process. If you trust the message of your words, you can easily find a way to self-publish your books, including buying a proper ISBN. With the help of some easy tips – among other things, the tailored use of social media as Twitter or blogging – you can even obtain some financial advantages, beyond the much praised intense publishing activity. In this way you can successfully secure some funding to spend quality time writing your next book. Obviously, as your writing credential develops, so do the chances of being considered a serious, coherent, and truly interesting intellectual.
At the practical and marketing levels, most of the advice offered by publishing experts focuses on the same direction: publish as much as possible and make yourself a name in the world of words.
Overall, the many paths in life converge in the same direction. Writing becomes your second academic nature. Teaching, your family life, the time spent at the library (even the novel writers need serious documentation, as imagination is never enough), maybe some social life and dedicated time for acquiring the proper media skills… there are lots of activities that we should take into account when planning our daily schedules.
But since entering the world of academia as humbly as possible, I have progressively started to change my mind about incessantly publishing. Even though I am convinced that writing is the only thing that I will always do as part of my job or whatever other professional and personal assignments I will have in the near future, I also face a certain fatigue of running on autopilot. From one Word document to another, my sense of wording diminishes and a couple of times I experienced a deeper feeling than the classic “writer’s block.” It was a rather certain despise of writing about everything and nothing. At the moment you understand with all your strength that you can’t continue throwing words on the page, because you aren’t sure about the meaning of your final work.
In such moments, I prefer to run away from the writing desk for a while. I read something completely different but that still shows good writing, watch a movie or go to an exhibition. I am permanently asking myself if what I do is worth the effort and if my narrative will make any sense outside my close area of interest. This reconsideration process may last for an hour, a day or a week, or even more. But I am sure that even if I am not publishing for a while, I will not perish as long as what I want to write about is something valuable.
Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.