Sometimes I work for years on an article or book chapter.
Literally – years.
I’m revising an article right now that has been written, re-written, revised, thrown away, crumbled up, lost, re-theorized, re-analyzed, and finally submitted once I had some idea of what in the world the data had to say that was worthwhile to anyone other than me.
It took six years.
And while I would argue it’s one of the most important pieces of scholarship I’ve produced (I’ll put the link on the blog when it’s published), I imagine a mere few dozen or so people will read it in the research journal where it will land.
And out of that small group of people, I imagine a few of them will find it useful and cite it in their own research.
And out of that even smaller group of people, I imagine I’ll be lucky to receive one or two personal email messages that say, “Hey, thanks – that was good.”
The academic world just doesn’t work that way.
But op-eds do.
My last one took about a week to write: five days of thinking and talking and false starts, one-half day to muster up the courage and decide to actually write it, and one-half day actually hunched over the computer. (okay, fine, i have been reading, living, and preparing for writing on this topic for many years – but i’m not counting that here)
And the feedback is immediate, albeit not all positive (I’ll post about that another time – I’m stickin’ to the positives here).
Though I don’t usually put myself through reading the online comments – they are an immediate stream of opinions about my writing and me. And, surprisingly, the ones I quickly browsed this time were overwhelmingly positive.
But the personal emails and telephone calls are really amazing (only a few people are angry enough to look me up and contact me personally…most of the personal communication I receive is supportive and inspiring).
I get a range of messages of parents, grandparents, students, teachers, administrators, and professors:
Thank you; This is so important; Write more; Send this to every politician and magazine; You hit the nail on the head; Thank you for speaking out because we don’t feel like we can; What can I do to help change this?
The messages are amazing – so thank you for taking the time to find me.
And that’s one reason I love writing op-eds – they actually make me feel like my words can matter.