Gina Barrecca says no.
Here is why:
I was asked this question by a former grad student who wanted to know whether I thought she should start blogging.
I told her not to do that.
I think she was surprised to hear me steer her away from any kind of writing exercise or public engagement of ideas, since I’m usually such a big fan of both.
But what I fear is that a blog, especially if it has mild or moderate success would become the focus of her intellectual attention and draw energy away from the writing of the book itself. All that immediate attention is hard to ignore. It feeds you. But does it feed you well?
I worry that, rather than being able to put her time and best work into a manuscript, she would be putting it into the short, sharp, witty swipes at a topic, that a post lets you take instead of settling into the treacherous and demanding task of a long piece of work.
I’m for one very glad that I didn’t have a chance to have a blog before I had the chance to write and publish a whole bunch of books. I’m glad that the opportunity to write for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites followed my professional reputation rather than establish it. That might simply make me seem out of date. In the age of twitter, even a blog seems like a hulking, antiquated, steam-driven bulky piece of machinery, too outdated for its own good.
What do you think?
Back to this conversation again? This time the threat is to our creative output. I suppose that might be the issue if blogging didn't actually put me in the mood for writing more and not less. I need to feed writing as a kind of addiction and get a tolerance for writing a lot, all the time. It's also a vital component of our professional outreach to the public. We're not shouting in the wilderness (although it may feel like it), we're learning how to write for a public audience, something graduate programs don't often take seriously.
But I've said those and other things on this, too, that you've been nice enough to share before:
Response to Edward Blum on this same topic last year
Short answer: Oops. Too late.
Longer answer: I am finding it helpful. It is a place for me to “think out loud” about ideas I am encountering (or revisiting) in the course of my studies; verbalizing things helps me figure them out.
However, because my ideas on lots of the things I'm writing about are still very provisional, half-formed, and doubtless often half-baked, I feel like it's not a bad idea to just be a non-specified blogger studying at a non-specified school. A few years down the road, I don't want the hiring committee at Solid State University to take issue with one of my less insightful blog posts…of which I am sure there will be many.
I agree with @mcconeghy. Speaking as a public historian, I see blogging as an essential way for me to communicate to my audience.
Furthermore, I think the blog architecture is much more conducive to “historical thinking” than other social networking/public engagement platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Contrary to what Barrecca states, my blog (and the blogs I frequently read) is not “a hulking, antiquated, steam-driven bulky piece of machinery, too outdated for its own good.”
But I also see LD's point — I wouldn't want my “half-baked” blogging ideas coming back to bite me later in my professional life. Although I would hope that, by the time I'm looking to join the faculty of Solid State University, hiring committees will have come to realize that blogging about your scholarship is much different than writing a monograph. Blogs are a public venue in which to work out our ideas, in all their messiness and complexity.
Jeff Pasley says
I would have to say no as academia is presently set up. I look forward to the day when all kinds of historical work can get recognition and tenure.