Weathering the Silence

IMG_1260What use is a writer who doesn’t write?

This is the question I’ve asked myself most frequently this fall. I’ve been keeping my digital self under lock and key since September because it was job search season. Since the MLA JIL was published, I’ve been consciously or subconsciously censoring my online presence lest I publish something that would hurt my chances at getting “the job.”

Because that’s how we (meaning, underemployed academics) often think of our work prospects. That there is one magical position out there just for us, and if we work smart enough and outwin, outlast, outthink our competitors, then the System will work itself out and we will get our job. But (and there’s always a But), if we mess up by posting the wrong tweet or facebook pic, the Powers That Be will see that we’re not worthy and will snatch The Job away!

One could substitute querying for job searching, but the message is the same. The first rule about the job market is don’t talk about the job market. The second rule about the job market is DON’T TALK ABOUT THE JOB MARKET.

Of course there’s some truth to it. Yet rather than remain silent, why not live by the maxim we’ve already internalized: treat others how you want to be treated. Don’t be an idiot on the Internet. Or something like that.

After enduring my second silent fall, however, I’m starting to think there must be a better way to do this thing called being a working writer, and maybe it begins with, I dunno, writing? Because even if I don’t have “the job” yet, my work is fulfilling. I’m teaching music. I’m teaching continuing ed classes. I’m getting stuff published. 

Some of my fellow academic-types have started to warm to the idea of transparency on twitter. #RealAcademicBios has allowed people to be more forthright with their struggles and sacrifices. I don’t plan to participate in this communal catharsis (as it’s been called), but I agree that the best way to overcome social challenges is with speaking, not silence.

Well, duh! I wrote a whole dissertation about the ills caused by silence!

And yet—it’s my default when the going gets tough. So here’s my public effort to get over my phobias and fears. I’m just going to write. It’s what I’ve been trained to do. It’s what I want to do. It’s what I need to do.