epiphanies: massiveness + openness = new literacies of participation?

I’ve always loved the idea of Epiphany as a holiday.

It’s partly the fact that it’s effectively a dead holiday, killed by its inconvenient placement after the commercial juggernaut that Christmas has become: even if Epiphany’s on your cultural radar, it’s most likely as a “best before” date for the Christmas tree. But Epiphany has the extra cool of being also a word, with a meaning that extends far beyond its origins in Christian tradition.

It’s the juxtaposition of this idea of “epiphany” and a day called Epiphany that delights me, as if one could just sit around every January 6th waiting for really good ideas to descend from the heavens.

Do NOT try this at home, kids. It’s disappointing. Very little truth in advertising from the epiphany camp, in my experience. And yet, pretty much any January 6th, I bet you could straw-poll half the English-speaking word nerds across the globe and find them secretly gazing expectantly at the skies, just in case. Some of us them would also be pointedly ignoring the abandoned-looking Christmas tree wilting in the corner of my their living room, but hey. Let us not speak of our others’ secret shames.
***
Anyway, yesterday I did not have one of the proper fancy epiphanies, with manifestations of God or anything – sorry, Mom. But I *did* have a moment where a series of disconnected thoughts finally clicked together and I realized, oh hey. I need to do something. I CAN do something.

Epiphanies – such as mine are, at least, which to say rather humble and not at all like visitations from The Lord, pity – remind of my kids’ toy trains. Except I seldom trip over them. But even scattered all over the floor…if you can get them into close enough proximity and the stars and magnets all align, snap! The pile is suddenly a single train, with some kind of directionality possible. Giddy up. These moments of transcendent synthesis are apparently the reason the word epiphany leaked over into secular usage in the first place, thanks to James Joyce (or at least so says Wikipedia, as my moments of transcendent understanding re Joyce are even rarer than manifestations of God).

Here’s how it went. Last week, at the end of 2013, I found myself loathe to write any kind of year in review post. I was no fangirl for 2013 or the general angst and disillusionment it left festering in me regarding academia and my own prospects after fifteen years teaching in higher ed. I figured this hesitancy on my part was no great loss to the world, but it left me thinking about what uncertainty does to voice, especially public voice. That was train car #1.

I’d also been thinking – as part of my ongoing dissertation research – about the conflicting concepts of success that circulate in academic networks and academic institutions, for lack of a less blunt distinction. I don’t believe the two are entirely separate – each has its broad constellations of semi-shared understandings, and there’s overlap – but my own experience of them is profoundly different, and I’ve been living in the middle of that and trying to unpack it. Cue train car #2.

Uncertain voice + muddled concepts of success = paralysis for a writer. For me, over the past year, it’s meant that my sense of myself as a writer has faltered to the point where I’d almost forgotten how central – and how hard-won – writing had been to me before I started half-taking this “scholarly” identity stuff seriously.

Train car #3 was, of course, a piece of writing. I published my first full-length peer-reviewed journal article last year, in JOLT. It’s ostensibly about MOOCs, but it’s far more a position paper exploring the possible decentering of top-down, teacher-centered concepts of education via massiveness, *if* – and it’s a big if – openness is fostered within MOOC structures (side note: HASTAC’s #Future Ed MOOC/movement launches this month and seems to be trying hard to actually do this).

 

Here’s the abstract, all official-like:

Screen shot 2014-01-07 at 11.24.23 PM

I wrote the paper almost a year ago now, but because I published it rather than blogging it, I’ve had little public conversation around the piece. It got tweeted a bit, and it’s been/being used in some cool open courses, which is wonderful and grand…but the kind of back and forth reflection that sometimes occurs here on the blog just never happened. And so when I was considering whether or not to use the article in the syllabus of my upcoming communications course and wondering, Bonnie seriously, isn’t that massiveness + openness stuff a bit idealized? I realized…I dunno. For years, my sense of my work has been that of a contribution to a conversation, a network. I didn’t notice how much I missed that. Until yesterday.

And then ye olde train cars of epiphany started to line up. CLICK.

I have spent the past year or so training myself painfully to try to write in all the forms my particular corners of the academy validate. I’ve done this rather blindly, as one aiming for desperate not-failure when one doesn’t have a clear enough picture of what success might be. And I have had success, in a sense – my proposal passed, my book contract was extended (sorry, JHU! MOOCs are…um…complicated), my paper’s been published. Other things are in the (slow) pipe. But in learning to write within the political economy of formal academic measures of success, I have lost something I valued.

I didn’t share most of what I wrote last year. It felt vulgar to shout “Looky here! Real live journal article!” so I didn’t blog about it. I stopped blogging about the book because the whole conversation about MOOCs got so fraught and so reductionist I didn’t really want to be in it, anymore. I didn’t share 90% of thesis proposal #2 until it was done, because the shame of struggling with academic writing seems a more terrible spectre than the shame of past-date Christmas trees. I don’t know how to talk about any of that stuff, or invite people into it. And so I’ve gotten lonely working away on my own because people are not in that stuff with me.

I’ve been researching hybrid scholars – people like me who are both cultivating some semblance of a traditional institutional academic identity and building connections and credibility for their ideas in online networks – but…and you may cue the laugh track here…I’ve been stumbling all over my own hybridity. I’ve been trying to be both networked scholar and proper academic, whatever that is. I’ve been trying to wear two entirely separate hats and engage in two entirely separate identity economies and…well, it’s a mug’s game.

And I don’t want to do it anymore. But. I’m not sure, frankly, which parts to drop.

That’s the hardest part about epiphanies, or at least the discount-version epiphanies I’m privy to…they’re never complete. A few trains line up and you pull ahead a bit and then some fall off or disintegrate or you crash into another and discover you need to change lines.

I want to make a career of scholarship in a time when the whole field of higher ed is practically in hiring freefall. I suspect, whether that ends up being my destination or no, I’l be – in the fine Myles Horton tradition – making the road by walking.

So I’m going to try to walk my way. I’m going to be hybrid.

If there’s anything to the premise that the potential of massiveness and openness = new literacies of participation, it’s those of us out here straddling the edges of old and new that will end up making and modelling those literacies, whatever they turn out to be worth.

And if you think that’s a ridiculous idea, I’d be ridiculously happy to engage in discussing it. Right here. Because neither an institution nor a journal can ever offer me the kind of space this blog does, for discussion of my work. They have their own spaces and values to offer, as do conferences and other conventions of legacy scholarship. I don’t think it’s either/or.

But if that’s true, we – I mean I – oughtta start acting like it, and stop re-enacting and internalizing artificial separations between spaces for knowledge production and learning.

After that, I’ll get that Christmas tree down.

Do you get stuck on the ‘shoulds’ of academic identity? How do you navigate fact that different and conflicting concepts of success and ‘good work’ are all currently in play? Do you think that’s always been the case, blogs or no?

27 Comments epiphanies: massiveness + openness = new literacies of participation?

  1. Michael Gallagher

    Hello there,

    Greatly enjoyed this and, in particular, your capacity for articulating a situation I feel myself caught in as well. I publish academically and am always quite disappointed by the way in which it circulates as compared to my blog writing. If forced to give up one or the other, the blog would stay. It is more important to me and my community, I think.

    I feel myself skirting higher education professionally, not fully committing myself to a future there (particularly as the job prospects are so bleak). I have never been that discontent with work in non-profit or even corporate spheres, but higher education still has an allure, a certain magnetism. I just love ideas, I suppose, wherever they might reside. My identities have oscillated all over the place depending on where the projects reside (scholar one day, project manager the next, teacher the following, that sort of thing). I find a certain joy in that disequilibrium, as if I dance between these ambiguous spaces and identities long enough, something new will emerge. And it will just emerge, as you said, by walking the road. And if I contribute at all, it will be through my blog and that emergent identity.

    I ramble. Thanks for the great post. Encouraging to know others wander, but aren’t necessarily lost (to lob Tolkien into the mix).

    Reply
    1. bon

      I’m with you, Michael, on the value in the way blogs circulate…in a sense, they still operate as the foundation of many people’s sense of community within networks. A place to float ideas longer than 140 characters, and also a place where the effort others make to participate is far more visible than on SNS platforms – I know your name, for instance, but perceive this comment as a far more significant gesture in terms of tie-building between us. (Sorry, that’s research me thinking out loud, here. Don’t run away. I don’t expect birthday presents or anything!)

      I like the image of dancing between ambiguous spaces and identities, very much. At the same time, the cultural (academic, financial, and otherwise) pressure to have a far more targeted goal and path, especially at this juncture in my life, makes dancing exhausting sometimes. I’ve always danced. I think I’m afraid there will never be a chair for me to rest on. But that fear takes the joy and sense of agency out of dancing…it’s complicated.

      Reply
  2. Laura Gibbs

    WOW, fascinating, informative. The shoulds of academic identity pounded me into a pulp some ten years ago, and I left: now I teach (LOVE THAT), read what I want, write what I want… and it was such a stark situation at the time that the thought of hybrid never crossed my mind. But I think that sounds wonderful, and I look forward to seeing how your hybrid adventure will go. :-)

    Reply
    1. bon

      Laura, you made me think. It *is* less stark now, in terms of the boundaries of academic identity being perhaps more open…that’s an important perspective for me to retain. I think I was largely unaware, in my previous grad school incarnations (97-2000 & 2004, respectively), of these ‘shoulds,’ whether that was for better or for worse. I happened to be in programs that were very much about ideas and perhaps not enough about reputation & status management and the concommitant jockeying. Or perhaps I just wasn’t asking the right questions. Either way, at this juncture I am what I am, and I appreciate being reminded that this hybridity is a gift in its own way, an alternative form of knowledge engagement that *I* value, even if traditional scholarship is unsure what to make of it all.

      Reply
      1. Laura Gibbs

        And of course there are benefits of hybridizing even for those of us out of the academic loop: we get to be in touch with great scholars who ARE hybridizing. I don’t go to conferences … but I learn more from folks at their many different unis from hanging out online than I ever did at conferences anyway! So the potential beneficiaries of your hybridizing are MANY. And we thank you!!! :-)

        Reply
  3. Paul Prinsloo

    Bonnie, loved the meandering, the despair, the uncertainty, the linking up of thoughts/epiphanies like a toy train. I think there is an increasing awareness of academic identity as an interstitial space where often incommensurable identities/demands meet. It reminds me of a wonderful article written by Boellstorff on being gay, Muslim and Indonesian – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1525/aa.2005.107.4.575/abstract

    Thanks for sharing your journey. There are many of us.

    Reply
    1. bon

      Thanks for this, Paul. I think you’re right – there’s been an increasing awareness of interstitial academic identities growing for awhile now – but I also think there’s a retrenchment or refusal to see/acknowledge/extend that’s growing in equal proportion. It may simply be the vague sense of threat and then dismissal that’s long been documented as part of how humans deal with the unfamiliar, but I think – in some circles – there is also a retrenchment of power and the right to determine “who counts.” Against a political economy in which fewer and fewer truly count or get to participate.

      So yes, there are many of us. And connecting is one of the pleasures of making this road – or just even learning to bring it into focus – together.

      Thanks for the link – appreciate it.

      Reply
  4. Kate Bowles

    Something journal articles don’t do well is to allow thought to be dynamic and open-ended. The journal article is a finished thing until it gets cited, while is really to say that it gets hauled into some other net without itself being changed.

    And: “there are many of us”. Because there are.

    So then the question about making the road by walking is not always about making a road on your own, but noticing that there’s the beginning of a path forming, and making it together with those who just passed by, and those who will come along in a moment. It really is possible for us to make new things, and in some ways hybrid independent scholarship is already valued.

    So the question then is how to enable those who are choosing to make that path together to be supported.

    Reply
    1. bon

      Good question, Kate. What do we need? If we’re talking about scholars, broadly defined, I think community, absolutely – the sense like you say that there’s the beginning of a path forming and people to make it with. I think some of us are lucky enough to have that…I am grateful for it. At the same time, a growing challenge for many of us is the capacity to simply support ourselves or imagine a version of our futures where we can do so, within some aspect or corner of scholarship. And I know that many scholars with some semblance of security feel little agency and great pressure with regard to institutional demands…there’s a real Maslow’s hierarchy of unmet needs emerging here. ;) lol. Enabling agency for all these educated, relatively privileged people sounds kinda funny, written out like that. But there’s a real void, among some of the most educated in our society. Which then tips the balance of power further away from fostering conditions that are good for anything but capital. Strange times.

      Maybe, unless we want to abandon the idea and mandate of public institutions entirely (and I don’t, because of all the people that would leave out) we need to think about enabling institutions to change and become hybrid spaces too. Seriously. That’ll be a real hard sell to the pursestrings.

      Reply
  5. Martin

    When I give my digital scholarship talk to new researchers, as I’m sometimes asked to, I end it with the cheery note: “You’re screwed both ways – you can’t afford not to be a networked/open/digital scholar, but you can’t afford not to do the traditional stuff too”. Actually it’s not as gloomy as it sounds, I think the two are complementary not competitive. I don’t think we write as _many_ academic papers when you have other outlets, but a blog is a good way of working up ideas for a paper or a book, and those formats are good for expressing particular pieces of your identity. They just don’t have a monopoly anymore.
    Oh, and you missed the most important part of Epiphany – it’s my birthday :)

    Reply
    1. bon

      Happy belated, Martin! :)

      You’re quite right about the two not being competitive but complementary…there are some real overlaps and also places where the whole of scholarship, as I see it, is made far more by the fact of both being part of the picture. The challenge is simply to trust that that’s a shared view and that not “playing the game” as it was played however many iterations ago will be seen as legitimate by those unknown future hiring committees, say.

      “Screwed both ways” made me laugh. An excellent new Twitter bio for any hybrid scholar really looking to increase his or her bot followers. ;)

      Reply
  6. Neil

    I can see this could be more of a problem if you were in a traditional field of the humanities, like German literature, where the academic world has established rules, but how could one trust anyone involved in the field of study of MOOCs if they weren’t networked themselves? Isn’t part of your aim is to change the whole educational system? It seems as if you have to be somewhat removed because that’s the whole point of what you preach.

    Reply
    1. bon

      Again, Neil, I want you as my agent. The world always sounds so much more reasonable when you frame it than when I do. :)

      I think you’re mostly right…except that unless you want me and my family to come live in your mother’s apartment in Queens, I will eventually need some sense of employability, and there are no MOOC departments within conventional ed…I could sign on, maybe, with a big corporation (or maybe a non-profit like EdX but my work is not machine-learning or comp-sci-based so perhaps less likely) or look for work within faculties of ed, whose denizens do have internalized (and sometimes conflicting) concepts of a “right way.”

      Or try to keep walking with all options left open, which leads to stumbles and insecurity but is, perhaps, the only hybrid way forward. What I’ve decided here, at least, is to try to value those options on MY terms, not the inherited ones they get couched in. Because then the sense of constantly “doing it wrong” is paralyzing. So here’s to…well…walking.

      Reply
  7. Jo VanEvery

    Fascinating. I think something has happened to how publishing in peer reviewed journals is seen that is part of the problem. After all, in a pre-digital age, publishing a journal article IS taking part in a conversation, albeit one that takes a lot longer to have. Citations are a form of engagement.

    And conferences, seminars, working papers and the like are all ways of engaging in the conversation before the thoughts are articulated in a form suitable for publishing in a journal (or book).

    Somehow this has been obscured by what I’ve started calling the coffee shop loyalty card model of academic publishing (and probably conference presentation). People are publishing and giving papers to get their little card stamped on the assumption that once they get enough stamps they get the free coffee (a job, tenure, a grant, a promotion).

    The problem is that the reason those outputs became the measures in the first place is that they are concrete instances of joining in the conversation, and citations are a concrete measure (however imperfect) of the impact your contribution has had on the advancement of knowledge (which is a fancy academic term for moving the conversation forward).

    In a digital age there are more places to have that conversation in it’s various stages. I’m not sure things need to be “saved” for the formal publication precisely because blog posts are more akin to working papers, conference and seminar presentations, and so on. They are places to put your thoughts into some kind of order and get some feedback and conversation going so that you can further develop your thoughts.

    As such I don’t see blogging VERSUS traditional publishing. I see multiple ways of engaging in conversation. Each with different but overlapping audiences. And that some venues can then bring readers to others. This happens with conferences — hearing an interesting paper can prompt you to go look up that person’s published work. It can happen with blogs.

    The status thing is somewhat separate but perhaps linked to that sense of permanence/archive. It would be a shame if the worked out ideas didn’t get into a higher status publication that would then also give it a different place in citations in other people’s work. Not to mention a higher priority in the “to read” pile of people who are also navigating this (somewhat false) division in relation to their own work.

    Which is probably a long way of saying that I love the way you are thinking here but I think it is false to place journal articles and other traditional academic publishing/activities in a category of “not about conversation”.

    Reply
    1. bon

      Thanks for this, Jo. I don’t disagree with you about the broadest definition of “the conversation”…I’m not so much saying here that there are two fully separate solitudes, where the academic publishing side is totally ‘not about conversation,’ but rather that there’s a spectrum of knowledge engagement media on which journals represent the end that feels like isolated Siberia if you’re used to being in the conversational equivalent of Tokyo. In academic publishing, I miss the *experience* of conversation, because it is neither terribly visible nor accessible to me. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, more that – at least for me, in my decision to be hybrid – it isn’t sufficient.

      Now, I love the Royal Society letters from the late 18th century…but as scholarly communications grew in scale and what became academic publishing developed and hardened into an economic and prestige engine of its own, the conversation such as it was became a) fractured and b) as much about signaling knowledge and belonging as anything else. I think those phenomena can happen/are happening within online networks too, but the immediacy and replicability and searchability of digital media place different boundaries on participation in that (increasingly fraught and complex) conversation.

      That said, I do believe academic publishing IS a contribution to the larger conversation…Dave & I have long talked and written about the premise that no learning happens in isolation, but in a sense always in conversation with someone who’s gone before, even if that person is long dead (or halfway around the world and perhaps not ever likely to talk to or engage with me). So when I read Virginia Woolf, I experience that as being in conversation with her. But it is conversation in the absolute broadest sense of the term…it has its own satisfactions, but they are not the satisfactions of talking this out with you, under the assumption /hopethat you will read this and maybe even engage back. It is this one-to-one back and forth that really helps me hone in and go deeper…and that I miss when the main indicators of having been read are citation count or even critical analysis of my work.

      I see it like this: when I was a kid, my father left. As I grew up, he lived 3000 miles away. He wrote me letters, and I wrote him. The letters meant a lot to me, but they were rare. Long-distance was expensive and my mother’s budget tight, so I could only call him once a year, on his birthday. Yet I thought of him often. I wanted a father figure. I experienced an…absence. And sure, we were in an extended, mediated conversation of sorts…but it was deeply limited by the affordances of the media available.

      If an absent parent today were to limit his communication to the systems available in the 70s…that’d be silly. And frankly, cruel. Because while though those media are perfectly legitimate and sometimes appropriate ways of having some kinds of conversations, they don’t meet the range of conversational needs people actually HAVE.

      I feel the same about journals. On the spectrum of effective conversation and ideas exchange, they’re way out on one end. If they didn’t serve the loyalty card purpose (I love the analogy) and weren’t deeply entrenched in a variety of economic and prestige structures by which higher ed identifies itself, I suspect we’d have seen far more significant challenges to their very existence than we have to date.

      Reply
      1. Kate Bowles

        What a beautiful story, goodness. I’ve been thinking about letters, actual letters recently, because people I don’t know have been sending them to me, thanks to Twitter. For several years our neglected mailbox has delivered only bills and bank statements, and everything else that’s meaningful to us is online. Then suddenly these letters have come, in real envelopes, with stamps, and I’ve been jolted into the different type of time this represents. Plus: what if I want to forward something, to share it, to pass it on? Then I’d have to put it in another envelope, buy stamps, mail it. Am I even allowed to do this? Can I forward a card someone sent me to someone else, and say: how lovely is this? Suddenly I’m aware that this everyday activity has become really unfamiliar to me and I don’t know what the rules are.

        I think you’re right, Jo, that there’s a false polarisation of one thing and another in relation to blogs and journal articles as different types of writing, for different audiences. But I feel the radically different temporalities they involve is significant to me. I write something, it takes 18 months to appear; you cite it, and that takes 18 months to appear. But this morning I saw Bonnie’s tweet that you had commented, and I came by to see what you had said because it sounded interesting, and both of you have me thinking, right now.

        I don’t want to lose the temporality of slow exchange, but I do want to question why we value it so exclusively over this, so that some bloggers like Cathy Day feel institutional or career pressure to give up because it’s unproductive time. I think that’s very challenging now.

        Reply
  8. Catherine Cronin

    Hey Bonnie – I was so happy to find this post late last night. It probably wasn’t the best thing to read after midnight (“I’ll just read this one more thing before bed…”) as it hit hard and got me thinking. Anyway, after a busy day today I come back to thank you, to read the interesting conversations you started, and to add my few thoughts.

    Firstly, while I love the notion of epiphanies, January 6th here in Ireland is known as Nollaig na mBan or “Women’s Christmas”. It’s an opportunity for women — “mighty women” — to meet and celebrate together after the busy Christmas holidays (Felicity Hayes-McCoy describes it well http://felicityhayes-mccoy.blogspot.ie/2012/01/nollaig-na-mban-another-great-irish.html). So I’ll join your blog party in the spirit of Nollaig na mBhan :)

    Your post named an uncomfortable itch for me. You wonder “what uncertainty does to voice” — and I have been wondering the same. I’ve not blogged much recently, and wondered about that. I expected it would be liberating to (finally!) be registered for my PhD, free to combine the many strands of my learning and teaching, community and academy, action and research. Instead of liberating though, it’s — at least initially — somewhat silenced me (at least in my blog), as I try to untangle the threads of identity, voice and purpose. How to manage two conflicting value systems, two different identities — the networked scholar and the academic. I’ve been wrestling with this for the past few months, and you’ve helped me to name it.

    I’m often comfortable in boundary and hybrid spaces — I’m a New Yorker living in Ireland, a feminist working in technology, an engineer doing research in education, and I’ve taught/teach in community spaces and higher education. So being a hybrid scholar feels right — most of the time. On the good days, the intersections energise me and spark connections which move my thinking and my practice. As Michael says, there is joy in the disequilibrium. Sometimes though, the spinning gets too much, and the dance just stalls. Time to think, and just walk for awhile perhaps, as you say. Connecting with you, Michael, Kate and others here, and in our own blogs, in our own voices and our own time — I think all else radiates out from that. So thanks… and I really look forward to talking tomorrow :)

    Reply
    1. bon

      I have an Irish friend here named Nollaig…does it mean “woman” or “Christmas”? How interesting. I like the idea of Epiphany as a time for women to get together and celebrate…though I’m curious to unpack the history…I suppose Christmas has always largely been women’s work everywhere, being of the domestic (and church) sphere, and all? ;)

      It was a pleasure to talk with you this morning. Thanks so much, for you time and for your thoughts and your generosity.

      Reply
  9. Rodd Lucier

    Are you familiar with that scene in ‘Dead Poet Society’ where Robin Williams as the teacher instructs selected boys to walk around the square… they quickly adopt a common stride. This whole MOOC thing has me seeing everyone trying to monetize certification by using the same old ‘closed’ model.

    As one trapped in the system that perpetuates this thinking, you likely see colleagues being successful walking the same way as one another.

    But I think you have a fine and wonderfully unique gait… so go ahead and walk (and learn) in your way.

    Reply
    1. bon

      I tried to imagine myself in the Dead Poets’ Society scene, Rod, but my brain kept reverting to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. So I’ll just own that…my own personal subversion. :)

      Reply
  10. Kevin Hodgson

    I’m not sure there is much I can add to the conversation here, so let me riff off a line of your blog post that resonated with me: “I’m going to be hybrid.”
    It seems to me that we all have to have this same epiphany, if we want to stay relevant in this shifting world of writing and composition and community learning experiences. This goes beyond MOOCing it, too. I teach sixth graders. They have to learn to become hybrid learners, too.
    It’s difficult, though, because although the movement is underfoot right now, there are plenty of walls in place to hem us in.
    Thanks for writing.
    Kevin
    PS — I wander here as part of my own #nerdlution project to leave 50 comments at 50 blogs over 50 days. I appreciate having such a wealth of words to read and think about, Bonnie.

    Reply
    1. bon

      Kevin, thank you. Almost two weeks after you left your comment, me coming back to respond has led me to reading more deeply and thinking about another post! Why the conversation in networks is valuable, to me. :)

      Reply
  11. Nina

    Hi!

    I am so happy I stumbled upon your piece, as by reifying what I have identified in myself as something unsure, unidentified, now somehow makes a lot of sense. On good days I have probably justified me dropping my dissertation in social theory to paint, as diversifying or “staying curious”, while on less good days I can’t get “flaky” and not serious out of my head. I want to keep some academic rigour while expressing similar problems in painting. Chaos or equilibrium…, I suppose that depends on the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Lesley Wheeler

    Thanks for this–I found it belatedly through the Chronicle link. I’m struggling with similar questions although for me, the divide is scholarship/ creative writing (shockingly different canons/ venues/ norms, despite the common interest in contemporary writing). One observation: good scholarship eventually gets heard and provokes conversations, but it takes a REALLY LONG TIME. I realized just last year that a book I published in 2008 had a bigger impact than I’d imagined. I’m not saying all writers should be willing to wait for that gratification five years later, but it did make me feel better about those months of solitary labor.

    Reply
    1. bon

      That’s good…things can have impact even when/where we as their originators have no trace of the ripples they cause. I believe that happens anyway, no matter how networked the medium or the writer: we never really know the thought processes we contribute to in others, or the sum effects of our words. I still like being IN the conversation, though…I like having my words come back reflected slantways and impacting ME differently, thanks to the contributions of others.

      But I am deeply happy to know about the book. We have a contract we need to decide whether to continue with – and perhaps it is partly not knowing the process of that slog and whether it will feel worth it that makes it so hard to tie up those last ideas. Thank you.

      Reply
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