So Much Pressure!

One of the things that struck me the most while reading Fitzpatrick’s “Authorship” article is just how much pressure surrounds the act of writing – whether it be for an academic purpose or not. I am going to focus on academic writing in this blog post simply because that is what I am used to.

Fitzpatrick states that “[a]cademic anxieties about writing often circle around such questions about originality, creativity, productivity, ownership, and so on. Each of these issues has deep roots, being embedded not just in the complexities of academic life . . . not just in the enormous weight placed upon the quantified outcomes of our writing within academic systems of reward, but in the very nature of authorship as we have constructed in Western culture.” 

What stands out to me in this statement is the idea that each piece of writing produced for an academic purpose must be both creative and original. This criteria really narrows the field of available topics and the resulting pressure is monumental. An idea might be original in the sense that it has never been written about but this automatically raises the question: “Has it never been discussed because it is obvious and therefore not creative?” As a writer, when in this position, we now have to make a decision – do we write about it anyways or leave it to be looked over once more?

Now, let’s say that instead of discarding this original but potentially uncreative idea, I pursue it and write an academic essay. My ego, which is already bound up in my writing about a topic that is original and creative (as Fitzpatrick identifies), becomes even more so. With this essay, I am now presenting an idea that I am invested in enough to write about but am fully aware how easily a critic could tear it apart by calling it uncreative. I am now in a position where I have to defend my work. Ultimately, I end up feeling like I am defending not only my work but my intelligence and creativity as well – which isn’t always great for my ego.

Again, there is so much pressure surrounding writing, especially in an academic setting. So, how does one avoid such blows to one’s ego? is that even possible? Or, because of the criteria set out by this competitive academic world, is it possible to only ever create original, creative, and productive pieces of writing that actually benefit and add to the academic world? Does this strict criteria set seemingly impossible standards?

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3 Responses to So Much Pressure!

  1. cleda.choi says:

    I completely feel your pain, Michelle! It does feel overwhelming when you are tasked with writing a piece of scholarship that is both original, creative, and I am also going to add, fits within the parameters of what is considered “academic.” This whole notion seems somewhat outdated to me as well, based upon the Romantic myth of the solitary genius. Why are all of us striving to be Wordsworths and Coleridges?! Our discussion last week about academic blogging really struck a chord with me. It seemed alien to me to ask for help from a broader community, composed of people from diverse backgrounds. I think the fears about lack of originality and, dare I use the “p-word”-PLAGIARISM!!!-become so ingrained in us from high school on that we (or at least I) don’t even consider engaging in potentially really productive academic dialogues. The academic blog seems like it could help foster community; however, I wonder if we need to consider making bigger changes to how we conceive of academic authorship. Perhaps we should give more credence to collaboration

    • laura.chapnick says:

      Michelle and Miso make some great points here about authorship and the academic anxiety that surrounds creativity and originality. Nevertheless, I also think that it is important to consider the pressures associated with readership. The reader becomes responsible for understanding and interpreting the author’s work as he or she intended the argument to be read. In this case, it would be productive to ask the question: Does a new kind of pressure transfer from author to reader?

      • michelle.keith says:

        Laura, I think you make a really good point here. I’m not sure how to answer your question exactly but, for me, it does raise a few other questions as well…. Is this pressure that the reader may feel simply transfer of the author’s same type of pressure? Or is the author pressuring the reader in a new, different and separate way from his/her own pressure? Is this pressure productive – in that it helps the reader to come to a conclusion or interpretation? Or is this pressure suffocating – in that it forces the reader to certain conclusions, without the possibility of their own different, creative, and original interpretations? And, if this is the case, if the author is limiting the possibilities of reader response, aren’t they in fact just producing further academic anxiety (an anxiety that is not necessarily productive)?

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