Transferable skills: writing

A little while after I first started this blog, I posited that we post-acs and alt-acs, at least in the humanities (I can’t speak very well for STEM) would probably list three things as our main transferable skills: research, teaching, and writing.

I know there are many, many post-academics who make a great life (I hope!) out of writing, whether it’s working for a corporation, a news agency, freelancing, editing, or some other such use of the written word. That’s great, and in some ways I’m envious. I don’t have the time or the will (I wonder?) to develop a portfolio of writing that might lead to enough freelancing to have writing be my “thing.” I also don’t think I have enough entrepreneurial spirit to develop a freelancing business, and I often find myself jealous of those who do. Maybe I could, if motherhood didn’t take up so much time and mental energy. (I need a penny for each time I write “time” and then I’ll be rather well-off!)

That said, I did debate about which transferable skill to write about first, be it research, teaching, or writing. About a year ago, I received an email from a press with whom I’d been corresponding and working for almost two years about publishing my dissertation. (That’s three years, now). I’d done a bit of revision for the press, but not enough to have it published by a university press. Or at least, that was the conclusion after the university press board met: they didn’t want to offer a contract for a manuscript that still needed substantial amounts of work, according to the editor I worked with.

And my manuscript would need work. I’d need to delete a chapter, smush two other chapters together, add a bunch of “analysis” (as opposed to description, at which I apparently do much better), and contribute more to prominent conversations about theory. None of which I’d done in the dissertation up to this point. I was left trying to decide whether to do this heavy revision without a contract and submit again to the same press, or whether to do it and submit to another press. I found myself also left with the question of whether or not I want to pursue publication. Since I’m not looking for a tenure track job, but am most likely looking for an alternative academic job, I expect that publishing the book would only help, not hinder, my career in the long run, but as of a year since I received this email, I’ve done no work on the manuscript.

Clearly, it would appear, writing is not my preferred transferrable skill, if I’m really sitting on my behind so long about this manuscript. Part of it is frustration, still, with a topic that “failed” me in terms of being not “cool” enough (I’m just guessing here) to help land me a tenure-track job or posdoc or VAP.  Part of it is about finding time (oh time!).  Part of it is the question of what the payoff would be for writing. I’m not sure. It can’t hurt.

Maybe one day I will get back to the manuscript. As my children get older and I work on time management, I can only hope that it will get easier. When I told an academic friend that I was putting my child in part-time out-of-home care to get more work done, she eagerly asked me if I was getting back to writing. I don’t think she knows that, in the couple of weeks since I’ve had my baby out of the house for a few hours a week, the writing I’ve done is mostly here, on this blog. Baby steps, perhaps, back to the writing world.


One thought on “Transferable skills: writing

  1. I also had trouble motivating to work on my MS after I graduated. I just could not see the point of putting so much effort into something that a)would be read by so few b) wouldn’t compensate me financially AND c) was irrelevant to my career unless I landed a TT job. I also had young children. Parenting makes every free second incredibly precious. It makes you think carefully about how you spend each one!

    I will say, however, that there’s a big difference between freelance writing and revising a dissertation. I’m just transitioning my freelance work from tutoring to writing/editing. Free lance gigs are way less overwhelming!

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