Tuesday, September 29, 2009

60 Days of Scholarly Journal Article Writing -- Day 10

For background on the 60 Days of Journal Article Writing, please click here.

It's the end of Week 2, and I'm so happy that I'm probably boring all of the faculty book writing groups with joy. Working with the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks has yielded a miracle: The Article That Writes Itself.

As background, I began this semester planning to write a different article, but the workbook and feedback from the articles group convinced me not to do it, at least not yet. The article was based on a conference paper I gave at Notre Dame some years ago, and although it succeeded as a paper on a panel, the project was deeply interdisciplinary. Author Wendy Belcher's brilliant workbook helped me figure this out before I invested weeks in research and writing, however. Instead, I was able to see that now is not the time; after I've published a few articles I can re-consider it, from a stronger basis of having established myself as a scholar in that field.

Instead, I turned to an old cliché from the business world by going for "low-hanging fruit" -- reaching for a topic I understand well (it comes from the book I'm writing), and exploring it in more detail in a journal article. This is a perfect balance, because the level of detail required for the article would be ridiculous in a book -- it wouldn't even make sense in a long footnote -- but it is perfect for scholarly consideration in a self-contained published piece. I have the joy of running down these long, twisty alleyways of scholarly research, but without being pulled off of the main task of writing the book. The two projects nurture one another, yet they are not the same, i.e. the article does not incorporate much content from the book and anyone would consider them substantively different.

There is also a negative meaning to low-hanging fruit... the sense that such projects can be easy, obvious, and in many cases somewhat overripe and past their prime. Tenure committees are good at seeing through these sorts of c.v.-padding ploys. This is a potential problem, but also one that Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks addresses with its exhaustive list of projects in which one out not to get bogged down, or that may be considered too low-value for tenure and promotion. I've made certain that my article is potentially of high academic value.

Therefore I'm thinking of low-hanging fruit in the positive sense: this project is a natural outgrowth of my research, and it will help other scholars. It is interesting, it's arguably important, and because I know the subject so well it does feel as though it is writing itself. I'm working hard at it, but the labor is such a pleasure because thanks to author Wendy Belcher, I know and understand my daily writing tasks. The Articles-Only Group meets on Thursday, and I'm ready to greet it with the kind of scholarly excitement I haven't felt in many years.

I'm a little ahead on the blogging front with this book, so I'll post again after the Articles-Only group meets on Thursday.

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