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Academic Coaching & Writing

XII. Academic Blogging: What’s Stopping You?

Dec 12, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

So, what is stopping you from taking the plunge and starting to blog? I find that most academics who are hesitant to start blogging are concerned about the same issues. They are worried about copyright infringement of their ideas, being refused by traditional publications, or they are held back by the perception that blogging “doesn’t count” in the things that matter towards advancing your career.

Copyright. The blog copyright is always yours. The only exception to this would be if you were blogging using your university’s server space or hosting on their platform. In this case, you would have to check the Intellectual Property Agreement in place at your institution. This can also be problematic if you leave the institution or if they discontinue the service. You can avoid these issues by hosting your own blog.

There is always a risk that someone could “steal” your work, but that is a risk no matter where you publish. Be vigilant, but also know that there are legal repercussions if someone does steal (and profit) from your work.

Traditional publishing. It is not good practice to post an entire article you are writing on your blog. A paragraph here or there (and really, the blog can sometimes be a great place for your bad first drafts) shouldn’t hurt the publication process. Be up front that you have been blogging about your research (again, honesty is highly valued) and talk also about how much interest it has attracted. Increasingly, this kind of free publicity and marketing is being welcomed in a shrinking academic publishing market.

Career advancement. Finally, no, in most cases, academic blogging doesn’t count towards hiring, tenure, and promotion (although things are starting to change, with criteria being developed to evaluate “digital scholarship”). But, many times blogging does lead to opportunities to participate in activities that do count, such as being a guest speaker or giving a conference presentation. You might even be invited to submit to journals or contribute book chapters. Heck, some bloggers (Dean Dad is a good example) get book deals out of it. It is an investment that can lead to unexpected and rewarding places.

Although I have not blogged myself into a tenure-track job, I have turned my blogging experiences into a number of national and international conference presentations, invited talks, seminar and professional development presentations, media appearances, and other opportunities. I can’t even measure how much better my teaching has gotten since I started blogging and connecting with fellow practitioners in the field.

Fear. When I talk to people about academic blogging, the thing that I find lurking behind every concern, every question, and even every excuse, is fear—fear of putting yourself out there, fear of the potentially negative consequences, fear of being “wrong” or putting imperfect materials out there, fear of being seen as vulnerable or fallible, fear of being bullied in the comments. These are legitimate fears and, in this job market, of real concern. However, these shouldn’t stop you. The positives that you can receive from this kind of public scholarship and writing far outweigh (in most cases) the possible negatives. We all have that fear, even me. I choose to confront that fear and not let it control the way I write or behave as an academic. There is an entire community of academic bloggers out there who are willing to support you in your endeavors.

One important thing to remember is that you should be writing for the audience you want, not the audience you think (or perhaps fear) will be reading your blog. Your blog (and each post) can’t be all things to all people, and you will never ever make everyone happy. There will be times, if and when your blog gains a big enough readership, that someone who was never a part of your intended audience shares displeasure about your posts or blog in the comments or on social media. This happens. It hurts and it is difficult (I know). Ask yourself if there is any merit to their criticism, but if there isn’t, let it go. You can’t start writing to please every critic. This is a recipe for writer’s block and discouragement, and the pleasure you derive from blogging will dissipate. Remember your vision for the blog and the audience that you first had in mind, and keep writing for them, and for yourself.

Academic blogging is about building community and gaining visibility for your work. Persistence, courage, and good timing can change the course of your career for the better, either through the formation of a support network, or the advantage of increased visibility. Good luck with your blogging endeavors, and please feel free to share your blog in the comments!

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