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When Katherine and I switched over from orgtheory to Markets, Power, and Culture, I had the idea that I would continue writing the blog and then we’d develop some more content. That is still my intention, but the Spring was a bit tougher for me than I had anticipated. I have continued to blog, but at a very slow pace. Here, I’ll discuss why and use that as a reflection on writing.
I slowed down in Spring 2021 for two reasons. The first is professional. About a year ago, I accepted a number of scholarly writing assignments. The usual stuff – edited volumes and special issues for journals. Some of it was related to COVID and/or the upsurge in BLM protest. So that took up a lot of time. I added this on top of a normal, and very busy, writing program focused on my normal research. Even I though I saved time by lecturing via zoom, I increased scholarly output, which simply reduced the time and effort needed to write the essays that I put up on the blog.
Second, I came down with a (hopefully) minor condition, gastric reflux disease. It simply means chronic nausea as a result of gastric juices back washing into the esophagus. Not the end of the world, but it did mean that it was hard to sleep for many months. Fortunately, modern treatments are effective. Over the counter medications work quite well, as do diet changes. Still, I have spent many days quite tired. It is only now that I’ve been able to sleep well on multiple nights.
The decrease in blogging has given me some insights. One is understanding on a more personal level how people deal with chronic illness, even a relatively non-urgent one like reflux disease. It saps the spirit. Every day, your tank is half empty. Thus, optional activities like blogging get cut. I also appreciate better how chronic illness is demoralizing. This thing just happens and your energy just disappears. I have taken care of terminally ill people in the past, so this was not a surprise on an intellectual level, but it’s always different when it happens to someone else.
Oddly, I was able to sustain one form of writing despite being tired all the time – tweeting. I still dislike tweeting for reasons I have described elsewhere, but it is ideal for people who have limited time and energy. By design, it’s all short form. Using your device’s microphone, you can even just yell at your phone while jogging and tweet. In contrast, quality blogging is like any other form of quality writing – you really need to sit down and just work on the ideas.
This helps me understand a puzzle. I have observed that some people in my profession, academia, have rather limited output in journals and books, but generate a torrent of content on Twitter. You might think that hashing out ideas online might be a form of writing that helps you with your official job. But my experience shows me the difference. Twitter can be used to produce structured thoughts, and some really great discussions happen online, but it’s optimized for stream of consciousness thinking. Even in a state of constant over work and exhaustion, I was able to generate content that resulted in thousands of clicks and views per day. In contrast, I was lucky if I had the energy to sit down and properly produce one essay like this one per month. Good writing is slow and there’s no way round that.
I will continue to blog, as I believe it’s a very rich medium and people still enjoy what I produce. This will be made easier in a few ways. First, all requests for edited volumes will be turned down unless it’s truly something special. I will no longer chase down extra articles in special issues. My academic work will from now on be focused on really core things. Second, modern medicine works. Over the counter drugs have nearly completely eliminated symptoms and I’ve been able to sleep. Third, I will no return to my old mode of public outreach. I will maintain active Facebook and Twitter pages, but this blog will become the focus of more long term thoughts and discussions.
Please check out my books:
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter
A theory book you can understand: Theory for the Working Sociologist
The rise of Black Studies: From Black Power to Black Studies
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine.