|Dear <<FIRST NAME>>,
"The academic life is a privilege." That kind of thinking, I can admit, has sometimes kept me motivated professionally. Working as teachers, researchers, and collaborators is, on some levels, luxurious. To say we're "doing what we love" is a sleight of hand, an oversimplification. But doesn't it help to think that way when the academic grind starts feeling relentless?
About a month ago, an essay in Jacobin magazine laid bare the troubling politics of DWYL—shorthand for "do what you love." It's a maxim that trades on pleasure and privilege. And then there's the inverse: LWYD, or "love what you do."
It sounds wonderful, but what about those who don't get to do what they love? Who works, you know, for a living, not always for some beatific sense of fulfillment? And what about those who work out of love, but to their own detriment?
Where Miya Tokumitsu's Jacobin article on DWYL comes closest to home is in calling academia to the carpet. (She has a PhD from Penn herself.) I'll quote her at some length:
Few other professions fuse the personal identity of their workers so intimately with the work output. This intense identification partly explains why so many proudly left-leaning faculty remain oddly silent about the working conditions of their peers. Because academic research should be done out of pure love, the actual conditions of and compensation for this labor become afterthoughts, if they are considered at all. (link)
Chillingly, Tokumitsu follows that up by quoting Mark Bousquet's Minnesota Review essay "We Work," which postulates that academics are ideal corporate worker bees. We'll work ourselves ragged, and happily, as long as it's in service of what we "love."
At least as troubling as "do what you love," I think, is the mythical image of the brilliant professor independently churning out pages upon pages of scintillating prose. Is that professor doing what she loves, or is she cheap labor?
Researchers—and I'm including myself—have got to think beyond "do what you love" just as much as we need to question that vision of the professor whose scholarship emerges fully formed, like Athena popping out of Zeus's head.
If our work together, author to editor, challenges those dangerously common misconceptions, then I'm a satisfied professional—so satisfied, in fact, that you might say I'm doing what I love.
P.S. Welcome, all new subscribers! I'm delighted that you've joined us.
P.P.S. So that you can focus on your research, I keep up with the scholarly Web and promise to share with you only the richest, most catalyzing links.
Tweed's online scrawlings
Valentines for Academics: The holiday is over, but it's always a good time to show love to your scholarly friends: "When it comes to inspiration, you're my primary source."
Pushing Your Writing, Raising Your Profile: My webinar for the Text and Academic Authors is now available as a recording. An affordable membership will get you access to this and a whole archive of trainings related to academic publishing.
More links for scholarly writers
The Authority on First Books: William Germano (dean at Cooper Union and former editor in chief at Columbia University Press) talks shop from the scholarly publisher's perspective.
This Press Is Taking Forever to Consider My Manuscript! It happens, and here's what you can do about it.
For You, Junior Faculty and Dissertators: Steps for getting on the right side of the publish/perish dichotomy (from the Chronicle of Higher Education).
Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators: Why do we put ourselves at this disadvantage? The Atlantic explores this in an in-depth essay.
$17,000: That's the rough price tag on publication costs, including editing, for an open-access monograph from Palgrave Macmillan.
If you want more links in real time, be sure to follow Tweed on Twitter.
Great academic books make it impossible for the reader ever to think about the subject the same way.
—William Germano, professor and former editor in chief at Columbia University Press
YOUR NEXT CHAPTER
Staring down a revise-and-resubmit notification? Burdened by a manuscript that's about 100,000 words too long? I'm working with scholars on these kinds of challenges all the time. The industry term for it is developmental editing, but it's really just collaborative, document-based problem solving.
To start strategizing together, send me a note. (It helps to think at least several weeks in advance of any fast-approaching deadline, but I always do what I can to help you out in a pinch.)
Send this newsletter to your colleagues by using the forwarding link below. Thanks!
Katie Van Heest, PhD,
your editor at Tweed. An academic myself, I know the plight and promise of scholarly writers. I also earned a certificate in manuscript editing from the University of Chicago, where my instructors were the press editors most familiar with The Chicago Manual of Style.
I am a devoted resource for the writers with whom I work. My services are tailorable and my working style flexible in order to best meet the needs of your next academic writing project.
It's true what they say: every manuscript can benefit from being reviewed by another pair of eyes. Behind these spectacles, my eyes are sharply trained to help scholars like you fine-tune their compositions.
Drop me a line
to discuss the possibilities.