on writing a playbook

on writing a playbook

I’ve been afraid to write. Well, to be more accurate, I’ve been afraid to blog.

It’s plausible that I fear adding another task to my workload. Since arriving at The Ohio State University to begin my postdoc fellowship, I’ve published two co-authored papers, placed two first-authored manuscripts under review, and have a third co-authored work close to submission. I’ve written three study proposals. I have a solid list of first and co-authored papers I’ll be writing over the next 6 months. Somewhere in between I have to begin grant applications to support my development as an independent (aka, “grant funded”) scholar. Did I mention I’m beginning secondary data analysis on a new project in December and primary data collection on two in January? Two more projects are waiting in the wings while my collaborators and I hash out schedules, but I have a hunch they’ll launch late spring. Is there something I’m forgetting? Ah yes, I’ve been afraid to add blogging to an already full academic life.

On top of work (and a ridiculous amount of time lost commuting to campus), I’m trying out a new pattern of living that includes leisure. Yes, you read it correctly…leisure. During Ph.D. training I took on the multiple side hustles that graduate students often do to supplement inadequate stipends and pay the bills. I researched and wrote as much as possible during the hours in between coursework and side hustling. Consequently, I clung to Saturday mornings visiting colleagues and friends at the local farmer’s market for “leisure”. I worked on holidays, out-of-state vacations and family visits. I worked pre- , during-, and post-illness. I stayed up late. Slept little. Drank much caffeine.

Since arriving in Ohio, I’ve been encouraged by established and new mentors to build in leisure. Weekends. Workouts. Sleep. Okay, workouts and sleep are necessities and do not count as leisure. Time with my fiancee. Time spent exploring this new state we’re calling home. Time to celebrate holidays and milestones. Time to make new friends and reconnect with longstanding ones. Vacations to visit now many-states-away family. Real leisure. Turns out, adding in leisure takes time – time that I’ve been using mostly for work over the past 5 years. Trust me, while leisure is taking some getting used to, I have learned that it is critical time spent. So, do I take time away from leisure to blog? It’s a valid query.

But, to be honest, my hesitancy is about more than time. If I’m being truly honest with you – and myself – I’ve been afraid to write because I’m afraid I have nothing substantial to say. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years; personal stories, bakes and recipes, creative writing. But, my audience was family, friends, colleagues as close as friends, and occasional WordPress community strangers. Yet, I’ve read blogs written by academic colleagues, mentors, and role models. They’re brilliant. Most write about issues related to their methodological or substantive expertise in public health and related fields. Some write scathing or satirical commentaries on scientific studies related to their areas of expertise.  I love these blogs, but reading them has stymied my own writing. Why? Because I’m not terribly interested in blogging about research. As an academic, I fear this is heresy.

Even more concerning, if not methodological or substantive expertise, then what is my marketable “angle”? What intelligent ideas can I present intelligently in the blogosphere? (Sidenote: Do we still call it a blogosphere? Have I just aged myself back to the days of LiveJournal?) In considering the question of my “angle”, I lean into process. The journey. The “how I got here” and “what I am doing now”. The lessons learned the hard way, and the questions I still have. As a first generation college student, I didn’t know the rules of applying to, accepting, nor attending undergraduate college. I experienced much the same when it came to both my Master’s degrees, Ph.D. training, and postdoctoral fellowship search. Throughout my entire academic entire journey I’ve wished for a playbook that I could consult for rules and answers to becoming an academic. Instead, I sought out first generation mentors, and I asked a LOT of questions.

Today, I’m still learning by asking “unasked” questions (i.e., those questions one is afraid to ask because you fear they’ll out you as an academic fraud; such as, “Am I doing enough?” or  “What is a postdoc’s program of research really supposed look like?” or “What happens if I don’t get a K?”). Some days I still wish for a playbook that I can consult for rules and answers to growing as an academic. And, I presume there are others out there like me – whose parents and siblings and aunties didn’t go to four-year college,  graduate school, or doctoral training. Who have questions. Who wish for a playbook.

So that’s my angle. I’m writing a playbook on life and living in the academy.

Do I have time to blog? I’m still not sure. But, I certainly have something to say.