Thursday, May 24, 2007


Thinking about the last post, I suppose it is best to clarify what I mean when I say I am not an academic and why I'm not enjoying my studies at this point.

I happen to enjoy teaching. I am energized by teaching, most of the time. However, I would rather be a writer who teaches than a teacher who writes. Writing was always interesting to me, before I thought about anything scientific or technical. I love words.

At the moment, I feel more like a form-filer than a student or teacher. I want to do things and be active. I hate waiting, as do most people, for paperwork to move up the proper channel, back for corrections, and then right back up the channel. By the time the process repeats, I'm sick of it. Yet, it's all part of academia.

Don't get me wrong, I understand why we have Institutional Review Board (IRB) meetings. I understand research subjects were abused in the United States and Europe — and sometimes still are. Yet, I see myself more as a reporter and analyst than I do a "real" academic. I watch people and record what I see. I interpret based on my own experiences, too. Granted, this approach is increasingly accepted in social studies / ethnographic works.

My goal is to improve the world, which I think I can do best via my words.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thoughts on Writing

If I were alone, I don't know what I'd be doing. I think I would have forced myself to return to school or teaching, since the other things I loved never quite worked out for me. Maybe I would have found a way to make my computer skills pay, even though I'm not as passionate about technology as I used to be.

Honestly, once I decided I loved newspapers and dreamed of working at one, I should have found a way to make that happen -- even for a few years. Teaching is sort of a fallback position from writing full-time and computers are a fallback from absolutely everything else.

Without my wife, I'd be struggling, no matter what course I might have selected. Wanting to give her a better life is now my primary motivation. In many ways, it is now my only motivation for continuing on my current path.

I'm not happy with where I live, what I am studying, or much of anything else at the moment. Each day, trying to work on any project is a challenge. It's now almost 2 a.m. and I should have completed the project I have loaded in Word two days ago.

I hate paperwork. I hate bureaucracy. I hate anything that seems to be a waste of time. And that's what this paperwork is -- a waste of my time.

If I were an independent reporter, and not working through a university, I could conduct interviews, write a book or article, and get on with life. In an academic setting, I have to fill out silly forms to justify asking people simple questions. Reporters, especially the authors of long non-fiction works, have the freedom to be productive. That's very appealing to me. Plus, people actually read the works and learn something.

I am not going to be a great academic. It's not going to happen that way. Instead, I'm going to write about life and people and issues of interest to me in a way that appeals to a larger audience.

Being an academic seems to mean following rules I can't help but question. It means playing by rules I don't respect. It means being politically correct and fitting in with the views that dominate the humanities. Academics go to conferences and praise each other, while attacking each other in journals few real people read. I'm not interested in that for my future. If I survive the doctoral process, I want to be an activist writer, challenging the stupid rules and ways of academia. I don't want to rot away at a university, imagining I'm changing the future while real writers and reporters accomplish more with their lives.

My department is closing, merging with two or three others. Why? Because someone imagines this to be a good thing. I have no idea if it is or isn't. What I do know is that the reorganization is political as much as anything else. It won't improve writing courses, classes on visual rhetoric, or general composition studies. It simply moves the deck chairs as the departments each sink a bit more. Now, we'll just sink together, I suppose.

I'm exhausted.