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Scholarly Dilemmas

Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I love writing, but sometimes it frustrates me more than you can possibly imagine. How much research is enough? How much is too much? How can I tell the difference? I get so many great ideas for articles, but oftentimes, they never get past the research phase because I’m quite the perfectionist, and sometimes I lack perspective. I’ll research until the cows come home, so to speak, but once I sit down to write, I struggle to condense all the information I’ve gathered into something coherent and interesting without my brain imploding. Other times, I’ll check out about a hundred books on a subject and then realize I can’t possibly read them all and still finish my post within year. What I should really do is narrow my topic to start with, but I find it difficult to do that when I get so excited about so many things and just want to explore everything all the time. In some ways, it was easier in college when I had firm deadlines for all my papers. As those dates grew nearer, I was forced to reign in both my perfectionism and enthusiasm in favor of self-preservation and getting the job done on time. Even still, I often had to remind myself that I couldn’t read every piece of literature ever published on a subject when I was only writing a ten-page paper. I’m tough on myself, which I think is okay as long as my expectations remain reasonable, but they are sometimes not.

I know that I would be less frustrated and more productive if I didn’t try to write so comprehensively all the time. I do enjoy writing the shorter posts I sometimes do on articles I’ve read or artists I’m enjoying, but I don’t think I would want to make a steady diet of them. One of my main reasons for starting this blog was to have a forum to conduct my own original research, so if I steer too far away from that and start watering down topics I know I could write more about , I’m unlikely to feel very inspired. I think I need a little perspective in my research and writing practices. So tell me, readers, how do you maintain perspective and reasonable expectations in your blog? How can I reign in my enthusiasm and flights of academic fancy when I don’t have a teacher or publisher to give me a reality check? What’s a young art historian to do?

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3 thoughts on “Scholarly Dilemmas

  1. I have a similar problem. I tend to start writing a post, realize I need to do research to finish it, and get bogged down. I find, though, that I get more responses on less-research heavy themes. It definitely comes down to what motivates you, and sometimes that internal motivation is hard to come by. 🙂 when you have a deadline, or a class is at stake, it is much easier to prioritize. You have to figure out what motivates you- is it a reward? Or punishment? And go from there. I also think if it as habit building. If you “get” something out if blogging, you’re much more apt to do it. So figuring out your “why” helps, too.

  2. Thanks so much for your great reply, Patti!

    I never really thought about the “why” before. At the moment, I think writing is its own reward for me, as long as I’m happy with the end product. Engaging with other bloggers and knowing that people are reading and enjoying helps too. The problem comes when I realize that I’m gotten so bogged down that I’m unable to turn out something I’m going to be satisfied with. That’s why I’ve decided to try setting out the parameters for my articles very clearly – exactly what I want to accomplish, how many words, and when it’s going to be finished. I might even post those goals so that I feel a responsibility to actually accomplish them.

    How do you keep up your internal motivation, if you don’t mind me asking?

  3. had trouble posting for some reason! My biggest motivators are: I am actually sick of myself saying I want to write and then not. Also, I think that I will regret it I don’t give it a solid try!

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