Why would I, a busy person with a demanding job in academia, spend my precious free time doing even more writing? It’s hard enough to summon the focus to write grants, articles, reports, even emails. So on top of that, I write not just one, but two blogs: Zabbylogica is my personal blog, and I also contribute to the American Heart Association Early Career Voice. I don’t do it for money or fame, I’ll tell you that. I don’t get paid and my #1 fan is my mom (Hi mom! Love you!). So why?
- Consistency. I find that making breakthroughs calls for consistent work, not just hitting it hard when inspiration comes around. Blogging creates a platform for being consistent. Whether I set my own deadlines, or work on the calendar of an editor, the time structure is key. I keep notes for post ideas, knowing I’ll need to pull something together this month. I follow up on “wouldn’t that be interesting” leads, because I have something to do with the results. I spend time writing that I might otherwise waste on internet rabbit holes. This creates a discipline of thinking and writing that’s not attached to the academic system. Which leads to:
- Freedom. Academic writing requires structure, and specific language, and particular kinds of work are more highly valued than others. On a blog, I can choose what to write about and how to write it, and this opens up my interests and allows me to explore areas that aren’t in the narrow sphere of my so-called expertise. I find this to be intellectually and creatively stimulating, and the knowledge I gain carries over into the more formal parts of my intellectual life.
- Speed. The time from idea to published post can be an hour or maybe a few days or weeks, not six months. This means I can address things that are happening in real time, whether that’s in my personal life, in the scientific literature, or in the news. This creates momentum, and it keeps me interested in things that are happening around me. For example, I just read some interesting research about women’s heart health, and instead of sticking it in my digital filing cabinet, I wrote a post about it. The rapid iteration of ideas is also a fun brain exercise and a great way to get unstuck.
- Community. I know other bloggers, online and IRL, and this is fun. My fellow AHA Early Career bloggers can sit together at lunch at giant national meetings. I’ve gotten to know other nurses, cardiologists, and basic scientists this way and learned about their work in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. It also helps me keep in touch with friends even if we don’t talk much— we can see what each other is working on and thinking about.
- Professional advantage? I leave this as a question mark. Some people put blog posts on their CVs. I’ve written for the Arizona Health Sciences blog and an American Heart Association blog— my byline is associated with issues I care about in public places. That can’t be a bad thing!