Monday, July 09, 2007

I am not thinking of giving up blogging

I just want to clarify, in relation to my post about How access to the internet interferes with writing, that I wouldn't dream of giving up blogging, with thanks to comments on Ricoblog and Jim West. I love it, and will continue to do it even if my readership goes down to a handful. Attempts to streamline my use of the internet are more about resisting the urge to follow up every small reference, to satisfy every curiosity as it arises online, to provide full, detailed and speedy responses to every single email received, and so on. Like housework, another thing that occupies far too much of my time, internet usage will always expand to fill the time available, and for academics that means that it seeps into one's writing time and crowds it out. At its best, academic blogging aids the writing task, whether by giving one the opportunity to develop ideas, to engage with others over work in progress, or in getting involved in what's going on in the area. The danger that I see with the internet is not those things but rather that it is ever present, always giving the impression of unexplored territory, ready to provide me with answers to questions I happen to be bothered about at any given point in time.

I think broadband is to blame. When I began writing The Case Against Q in the late 1990s, I was on a dial-up connection, and it was easier to impose discipline. I would just look up my references when I was next in the library, for example. Now, it is too easy to go and check them out straight away, and for one reference to lead one to another article I had not realized existed and so on. None of this is problematic in itself; it is just that the broadband era requires a great deal more discipline in writing practices, at least for me. I liked James McGrath's comment on my previous post, which I will repeat here, a great tip for graduate students and for easily distracted academics:
Your point about not looking up every last reference is also a good one. A nice trick I learned from my doctoral supervisor Jimmy Dunn is to put a sign $$$ in those places where one needs to go back and add a reference or further information. Since that sign has no other use, you just go back later and search for $$$ and track down the missing references then. It is a good way of keeping the writing flowing, even when one could theoretically stop and look for the needed citation.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Good suggestion. I've been using the string {cite} as my placeholder for follow-up referencing.

Matt Page said...

I've ended up working my way back through the alphabet with triple capitalised letters. So the first ref to check up gets ZZZ, then YYY, then XXX and so on.

The advantage of this is that if there is one piece of information you don't know you can just repeat that letter throughout the article and then it's a simple "Find and Replace" job later on. Useful in writing about film if you can't remember a character's name. Perhaps not so useful in the more conventional areas of biblical studies (which probably also don't use the $ sign as much).


crystal said...

Glad you're not quitting blogdom.