I blog here three times a week. I write about a paper a month for my academic career (either conference presentation or an article to be submitted to a journal/collection). I write the odd guest post or Views piece for Inside Higher Ed. I write a monthly piece for the University of Venus. I write emails. I comment on blogs, opinion pieces, and news stories. I write on Facebook and I Tweet.
I write. A lot.
I got an email from a colleague, asking me how I manage to write so much. To me, it’s easy. I just do it.
I’ve always been a prolific communicator. I can talk up a storm (my husband, after more than ten years together, still marvels at my ability to just keep talking). My years spent swimming was essentially one long opportunity for an internal narrative; I was writing in my head, constantly. I have boxes and boxes of writing from high school and college, mostly informal. I chose writing as my first profession because I love it. I think one of the reasons I became an academic was because being a professional writer (in my mind) wouldn’t let me write enough. The thought of writing a 200-300 page dissertation didn’t scare me; in fact, it was the most exciting part of my PhD.
I used to keep an extensive diary. I used to have terrible insomnia, my mind continually racing, unable to relax. This was even after being up since 5 AM, swimming for a total of 5-6 hours, a full day of school, and some after-school activity, before swimming. Writing was one of the ways I could organize my thoughts, get them out of my head and on to paper. I would do it usually late at night when I should have been sleeping. Of course, that got difficult when I started sharing my life with someone. And, the insomnia went away after I had kids. I still have some nights where I can’t sleep, but not with the frequency or intensity as before. But, there was something missing. And what was missing was the writing.
I still write to organize my thoughts, to get them out of my system. As much as my posts are often reflection, writing for an audience forces me to at least make some coherent sense of the multiple strains of thought running through my head. Take, for example, writing about teaching. I just really write what I am thinking about my class. It forces me to actually reflect on what’s going on, rather than spinning it endlessly in my head (or pretending that it never happened). While I don’t have to worry so much about it being “polished” I do at least want to make sure there is some cohesion to it. I’m a little ADD to be honest, which means I can get particularly obsessed with things (ironic, I know). Writing is a way for me to actually think it through (rather than simply obsess over it) and then once I hit publish, to let it go. It’s actually quite cathartic.
Friday’s post, for example, on my supposed failures in one of my peer-driven classes. As soon as I posted it (in fact, by the time I had finished writing it), I knew that I was being too hard on myself, as many of the comments points out. But, if I hadn’t written the post, put what I was feeling down “on paper” I would have probably carried around the guilt and frustration. Now, I’m fine (a really great long weekend with my family really helped with that). Writing, for me, is about finding balance in my life. If I don’t write, I’m missing an important part of who I am and how I stay sane. It’s always been this way.
I really hope it always will be.