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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is a Writer? Some Questions for You, My Readers

So, off-topic. I'm supposed to be writing about frugality, which, in my definition, is a very expansive topic. But this is over the edge even of my concept.

Interestingly, Duchesse wrote on this very topic today. So see my list of blogs to your right; she is Passage des Perles.

Is this writing? And, if so, how does it "count"? I am a teacher and thus have a toe in the academic world, including the world of academic writing. Yesterday, I had my yearly evaluation with the wonderful DH (who is my Department Head, and not, obviously, my Dear Husband. Such nepotism would truly be over-the-top.) Luckily, I had a small print publication last year in an academic journal. I also gave a paper at an academic conference. And I participated in a workshop in California on faculty development and did some faculty development stuff here. So I got a high score in "professional activities."

On my way out, I said, "If my blog gets 300 readers a day, can that count as a professional activity?" He chuckled in an avuncular way, even though he is only four months my senior. A similar chuckle was emitted by an old friend from graduate school, who, luckily, teaches here with me and is, owing to our shared past, TOTALLY TRUSTWORTHY. Interestingly, these two fellows are working with the newer modes of publication. Indeed, they just got an $85,000.00 grant to explore both traditional print-based and newer electronic forms of publication.

I persisted with DH, saying "Why not?" He said, "It's not on poetry." I said, "Well, sometimes it is." "Plus," I added, "it's that new genre, what do you call it." DH said, "Creative non-fiction." Yes! That's it! Or is it?

What think you, my Dear Readers (though not 300 per day, I don't think). Is this writing?

Posted from my office. It's OK. I got here early. I'm giving some finals later. This is the first post written at my office computer. Does that make it professional activity?


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I say it's writing!!!
And since it's in the office it's professional and all. Hey FA, there's a way to look at everything if you look at it from the correct angle.
Half glass full and all......

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Duchesse said...

If it's a written work, it's writing. But 'writing' sometimes means different things to various people: "edifiying" "literary", "extends the knowledge of the field" or "tutti frutti, all rootie". As they say, who's counting?

My post elicited some remarks that lead me to infer defensiveness and little ripples of anxiety- and I was not even as blunt as I wished. What I meant was: friends, if you want to get published, learn to freakin' write. You, Frugal, can freakin' write.

Duchesse said...

Oh and while I can usually write if I apply myself, I can't spel.


sallymandy said...

Blogging appears to be a new frontier whose conventions and definitions are not fully formed. Maybe we are having this conversations about where blog writing fits into the writing world because it's so new.

I write for a living. I also write a blog. The forms are very different and undergo different levels of scrutiny, correction, and editing. At the same time, any time I'm forced to analyze information, draw conclusions, and present them, I consider it writing experience because it hones my skills and thinking. This includes the writing I do for my blog, which is much more thoughtful than that for my job, though the finished product is often rougher around the edges because the time line for production is shorter.

I call myself a writer only on government forms that force me to put a label on myself.

Lastly, and this may be off topic, but I find it interesting that in the American publishing world, authors seldom get edited anymore. I find grammatical and spelling errors in nearly every book I buy these days. I found one in the most recent book by Toni Morrison. What does this mean? I don't know, but it seems significant!

materfamilias said...

I've just posted a nod to your thinking about this, but haven't time to do much more. I teach 4 and 4 in a small university whose status recently changed so that we are now moving towards a Rank and Title system (previously enjoyed collective bargaining, an anomaly I know!). So despite the heavy teaching load, there is a growing emphasis on scholarship and publication. Right now I'm getting two papers ready for conference presentation and I've got an essay (written several years ago!) coming out in a collection, but it's so tough finding time for it. So I ask the same question as you do, often (as well as the one about the value of teaching scholarship sans publication). Writing in the academy is so different from writing outside it, in terms of what counts. I note that the conference I'm attending next week -- our Cdn. Assn. of College/University English Teachers -- has a session on blogging, as many seem to do now. But even there, I'm quite sure they'll restrict the discussion to those who blog about academic issues or those who study blogging. Those of us who might use it to explore other facets of everyday life are less likely to be appreciated there (unless we're citing Michel de Certeau). Perhaps it behooves us to push the issue a little bit more, as you did with your Head, but I already feel a mixture of courage and defiance even for mentioning that I blog occasionally about fashion.
Oh dear, I'm going on and on, and I have to get back to work here. Thanks for raising the issue, one worth thinking more about certainly.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you being "peer-reviewed" by your small circle of beleaguered academics?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Reggie--I'm trying to look at things from that angle; the problem is in persuading others to do the same.

@Duchesse--I'm going to write more (think more) on this. Especially on why criticism is taboo in the blogosphere. Hope you write more on this too.

Frugal Scholar said...

@sallymandy--Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments. I am trying to figure out the conventions of this new "genre." Would appreciate thoughts from you as well on this.

@mater--I have long had a similar teaching load and pretty hefty publication requirements. At this point I have tenure and rank, so I have the ability to discuss this with DH. I think if this were the only thing I had done this year, I would not have had the courage. He's also a very nice guy.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--"Peer-reviewing" would be the sticking point. Blogs are not reviewed--except by their readers??--and so would not have the aura of a peer-review. Readers, perhaps, would also not "count" as "peers." Of course, many prestigious academic publications are solicited and not reviewed at all.

Puttermeister said...

Hi there--I found you through Materfamilias' site and was very interested to read your musings about bloggging compared to academic publishing, especially with regard to the rewards of each.

As a lecturer, nothing that I do in terms of academic service or publication "counts"--it's in our union contract that it can't be required of us, and therefore, we can't be rewarded for it, either. But regardless of any professional recognition I may or may not receive from my institution, the rewards of blogging and participating in the blogging universe are, for me, far more satisfying than institutional writing. Within a week of my first post, I had garnered more readers and responses than I'd ever received for any academic writing,and I think I've grown as much if not more as an individual and a teacher of writing and literature through blogging.

I've recently realized that the voice I've cultivated in cyberspace is of tremendous personal value, especially with regard to the fact that writing about my thoughts and experiences for an audience--a real, tangible audience, however small--has influenced me in ways I can only begin to appreciate. To me, blog writing is a miraculous convergence of audience, self, and platform, in which I feel I give and am given back to myself; it is precisely what I desire from the writing and publishing process. This form, however unique, feels the most real of any writing I've ever done.