To Be Published or Not To Be Published: Writing for the Sake of Writing

While still in grad school and still at the onset of my research project, I came across this workbook authored by Wendy Laura Belcher entitled ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success’. The title is very catching and captivating especially to those want to pursue academic publication. To borrow the words of Spivak, to be published is something ‘one cannot not want’.

To pursue publication is a very daunting prospect because writing can be a very scary, painful and frustrating process. Yet, the title of the workbook somehow seems to insist that, on the contrary to what one might think, writing a journal article is not only possible but also relatively easy. It does not only guarantee that one can finish a journal article but also Insists that it can be finished on the 12th week.

I do not doubt that Belcher can help students and junior faculties – for which the workbook is mainly designed – finish their journal articles in 12 weeks and get published if they just work through the book one week at a time. The question is, will it also help people like myself whose academic dreams are not accompanied by the necessary talent, skills and cultural capital. Belcher seems to say so, but there is just one way to find out: to use the workbook myself and follow its instructions to the best of my ability. In other words, get on writing.

The workbook is also designed not to write an article from scratch, but rather, to work with a draft. That is to say that one must have conducted a preliminary research already and must already have written something, say a classroom essay, conference paper, or a final thesis, which makes the 12 week time frame relatively feasible. The workbook is like a course module divided in twelve classes one has to fulfil. Basically, it is a course one has to attend and complete in one’s own space. The key is always to show up.

The point is to ‘show up’ everyday and spend at least 15 to 60 min per session. The author is quite convincing that it is better to write in small manageable chunks but regularly, that to write in long blocks of day. I already completed Week 1 last week and now on Week 2. Week 1 focused on giving the user a pep-talk which Belcher did perfectly well. She debunks all possible excuses and combat each obstacles one at a time. It changes how we view writing and how we relate to this process.

On week 2, one of the exercises is to select the paper which will be transformed into a journal article for the next 12 week. I chose the research project or the final thesis I have written in grad school. The task is to read the paper (in this case my research project) as a third person and diagnose it. While I was reading my research project, which will be translated and transformed into an academic journal article in the weeks ahead, I am once again discouraged and deflated by how badly I write.

I have a horror of reading what I have written. I always have and perhaps will always be. I do not even read my own blog in which I enjoy freedom writing its contents, let alone an academic article which will be subjected to academic scrutiny. I always find myself cringing when I read what I have written, so I do not read them. While reading the research project that will hopefully become an academic article, the voice of my inner critique then becomes dominant and telling me that I can write as much as I want, but I will never be published.

‘Write as much as you want, but you will never be a published author’ is rather mean to say to someone. But I reply, ‘I can live with that.’ Of course, nothing can top being a published author even once in this life time, but it not only about publishing or getting published. More importantly, it is about writing because writing is so gratifying. I just want to write and I cannot not write. So I will keep on writing. Who knows, maybe I might get published. But I just want to write.

At least, the workbook will give me something to blog about.