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?