For years now, I have only seldom managed to blog.
It has to do with having time or not having time to blog, obviously. Still, even in the phases when I least had free time, I managed to blog. Ten years ago, I needed it as a mental and discursive place, a protected place, a place where I could think out loud and make mistakes. I blogged once a week, usually on Sunday evening, as a way to move from one week to the next. This has been achieved, this remains to be done, here is where I stand.
When I was invited to give a short input talk at the workshop “Wissenschaftsbloggen experimentell“, I had to set my mind back to these times when blogging was actually a source of creativity for me. The times when I stayed at the playground late on summer evenings eating a Turkish pizza and taking notes for a future blogpost while my kids played with water and sand (German playgrounds! Love them!). Times when I actually achieved some science every week, one way or another, gave talks at least once a month, published about as much.
So now my kids are teenagers, I am an Academic who tries to reduce the time spent behind a monitor because the pandemic on top of a full professorship made my eyes and head so sore I often rather need to lay down and close my eyes than sit and type. But having to discuss how to write and what makes inspiration with other bloggers on today’s workshop made me realize that it is not so much about sitting at a desktop, it actually is about taking the space to think about where things are heading.
Ten years ago, I had a research project that filled my academic life completely. In terms of scholarship, it was demanding, I learned a lot and I was enthusiastic about every single bit of it. In terms of work environment, I was working in a team, which filled me with joy, pride and energy (as exhausting as it is, team work also gives back). We were sharing so much scholarship, again, learning, and building something new. It was hard, but euphorizing at the same time.
Very early on in the process of my 5-year research group leadership though, I was pushed towards the next career step. I sent out the first applications for professorships early on, and I now consider that this is the biggest mistake I ever made. I spent 4 years sending applications and hating myself for waiting for an answer every single second of every single day (and partly also night). I lost so much energy, self-confidence and time that I could have used for much more interesting things, just applying for professorships. And what made it work in the end is definitely not this destructive, all-consuming energy I put into it, but moving away and having luck with the position profiles that were advertised at that point.
What did this do to my blogging, what changed in my blogging practice when I started applying for professorships around Germany? It made blogging become for me yet another facade for building up academic reputation. In parts, the fact that I have been writing in English helped me not transform my blogging completely into personal academic advertisement. The foreign language somehow remained a foreign space, set aside. In parts only, because it was also proof that I was fluent enough in English for, let’s say, scholarly needs, and in that sense, a profiling asset.
At some point, I started blogging in French as well, in a much more informal way, on a blog called 140 because its main topic was twitter and twitter had a 140 character limitation back then. There too, I experimented with a writing that had little to do with my academic style and much more with the way I write in my paper notebooks. It helped me gain some of that initial freedom I had come to miss on this blog, that is, until Trump came. Twitter changed so much from that moment on that it became difficult to write about it with the lightness of heart I wanted. And also because the scholarly literature about twitter started to grow and it was difficult to keep walking the rope of a writing that was half-serious, half-entertaining.
While I am really happy that this blog has become a solid publication organ for various types of texts – individual, collective, technical, reflexive and whatnot -, it has not helped me write, not like I used to. With a year of sabbatical ahead of me now, I hope to get there. I hope, mostly, to grant myself to take time to write: on my paper notebooks, on my blogs, elsewhere, anywhere, really but to write. Because this is the only way for me to go somewhere, and I long for a journey.