I really enjoy writing. … However, I also am aware that the pressure of writing “early and often” has led me, at certain points, to take an instrumentalist approach to projects. At times I have given up the kind of measured cultivation of ideas I highly value, in exchange for the designation “productive.” I know I am not alone in this, and even now, with tenure, I still carry a nervous buzz about “getting things out.
There are two I like about this statement.
First of all, it is remarkably rare to hear anyone say “I enjoy writing.” It is great for me to hear that, as it is a reminder that it is okay to like writing. I have the impression that most academics hate writing. This makes it difficult to have an open discussion about seeking out the joy in writing. I wouldn’t say I love writing all the time, but there certainly are times when I find it to be pleasurable, invigorating, inspiring…. I love this reminder to seek out more of those times.
Secondly, I have to admit to “guilty as charged” when it comes to exchanging productivity for the cultivation of ideas. I have published a lot over the past few years, and there can be a trade-off between productivity and letting ideas simmer.
Before I type any more, I want to point out that there is also a balance between cultivating ideas and avoiding procrastination. For me, letting ideas simmer longer would mean continuing to revise drafts, getting feedback from more people, and reading more broadly in the field. It does not mean avoiding writing or delaying sending off drafts and polished pieces.
I am currently struggling with this dilemma as I work on what will be my fifth book. Several people have told me to take my time with it. I have three years before I would even qualify for promotion to Full Professor – thus I do not have any institutional pressure to finish the book immediately. The ideas I am working on in the book are big and complex, so I have a lot of thinking and grappling to do. The conceptual field – neoliberalism – is large and fairly new to me, so I have a lot of reading to do.
The pressure I feel to get the book out soon mostly comes from myself. The topic - mass deportation - is important to me; it is in the news all of the time; and, I want to contribute to the national debate.
On the other hand, I have already written two books that cover many of the policy issues. My third book “Due Process Denied” is an expose of the injustices incurred by US immigration policies, and my second book - Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America - has “deportation” in the title. So, in some ways, I have already met the goal of getting my voice into the debate. But, I have so much more to say!
I currently am working, slowly, on my book on deportees. I have been toying with the idea of getting a developmental editor to work with me to ensure it moves forward more quickly. I also need to form a new writing group in my new town so I can have conversations with local academics about the book.
In sum, as I work on my next book, I will continue to use the strategies that have worked for me in the past – daily writing, soliciting feedback, finding support, and enjoying the process. As a new thing, I will cherish more deeply the slow-moving nature of the process and work to ensure that my ideas are fully-cooked and cultivated before appearing in print.