forced vs free writing

As I reflect on the arguments I made in the blogging mini ethnography, I realize I failed to incorporate one serious challenge to the idea that journals have ignored students – in that there certainly are journals out there catering to student work. Marc Herbert recently let me know about a call for papers on collaboration, inclusion and engagement in anthropology, a topic I am trying to contribute to on this blog, and yet I have yet to consider writing for it!

With more time to reflect, I realize students ignore journals, just as much as journals ignore students. Both perspectives however lead to the same thing – most anthro journals are struggling to get a name for themselves, or are not trying to at all (this is assuming journals need an expanded readership, maybe they do not need to expand boundaries and I admit I have yet to explore these questions from the side of journals). Are journals meant to be read cover to cover? How many try to get people to do this? It seems the process of getting published in a journal is more important than the content one writes about – ie: journals have a more functional position of filtering content through a panel of reviewers, which establishes disciplinary control. So perhaps they don’t need to be known, as long as other databases present them.

But why aren’t students more interested in them? As students, we have no responsibility to publish. What does it take to get someone to produce an academic essay? I enter this debate with the opinion that students have a lot to say, and are simply not given a place to say it. However, when asked to contribute to a student run e-journal, I thought “hey cool, this is awesome” and then never got the energy together to try and contribute to it. I *have* been extremely busy with everything else in life, so time is one thing. And I’ve been riding the blogging bandwagon and have gotten quite caught up in it.

Enkerli comments on the mini ethnography, arguing that teachers are in the business of giving grades and that often students expect and desire this. He argues that while its unpleasant marking, it does work to get people to produce assignments! So perhaps there is something to this “forced” writing.

But blogging is exactly the opposite – here I write freely with no assignment. Why the hurdle to try and contribute to a student e-journal when I have so much energy to blog? Are the standards for academic writing so high that people give up and don’t bother? Or is it that you have to write in a certain way?


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by James on May 27, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I’m sitting in a computer lab in Scotland. In the other window are about 70 words of the research proposal for my masters, though because this is Scotland I’m actually an undergraduate all the same.

    There are another 2500 words or so sitting on my flatmate’s laptop (mine broke several months ago), but I know I can’t possibly get it finished in there. The original deadline was about a week and a bit ago, though the department seems to have given me permission to get it finished by the end of the week.

    I’ve never been able to get the hang of this forced writing malarky. I find it just puts me into a depressive cycle.
    “Ah, this writing is shit.”
    “Ah, I’ve got to rush it: deadline!”
    “Ah, I rushed this. It’s even more shit!”

    So I spend a lot of time hating what I’ve written and turning something in a week late, looking no better for the delay. Oh well.

    The weird thing is, I was really looking forward to writing this. But as doomsday closed in that enthusiasm started to evaporate. It’s always the same. I remember back in high school I had this dream of academia as a place where I’d be allowed to write what I wanted when I wanted (though even then I suspected its naivity).

    I just can’t reconcile trying to say what I want to say and trying to say what I think I ought to say.


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