Reporting on my work almost is almost as painstaking as reading other people’s articles. Although the whole point of writing is passing-along knowledge, we make that much more difficult by having harmonized academic writing into a flat, dry, political practice. But publishing is to scientists as diesel is to cars: you can’t go anywhere without it. So a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do: a 20h course on Academic English. I took that course for 3 reasons:
1: the Doctoral School demands that I do this sort of things;
2: I write poorly;
3: acknowledging reason 2 is outraging.
Writing has been my thing. At some point (late teens) I even thought that I’d grow up to be a writer! Yeah, I know: stupid and self indulgent brat! But at the time it seamed brilliant because no other form of productivity gave me such pleasure. Ten years later, this hasn’t changed, but at some point I lost the drive and quit. I used to gig with riddling sensorial-emotional glimpses of texts and call that writing and never took the trouble to learn and practice how to properly write stuff. I’m sure that even putting Mondrian into words had a technique, an aiding knowledge which can be acquired.
Words are tools, not creatures. Oh indisciplined me, thinking I run a word wildlife reserve…
Now the only thing I get to write are these blog posts that no one reads and an occasional something sprung from the soul which stays well buried in a notebook. But mostly I have to write scientific stuff (that no one reads either) and each first version of a scientific manuscript has been a disaster. Huge keys engulfing entire paragraphs with the notes such as “don’t use this sort of language”, “unclear”, “cryptic!!”, “what do you mean???”, are a frequent input from my co-authors. It’s not not being able to tell a story, not using conjunctions or being scientifically inaccurate. The problem is that within me there’s a pedantic literary prick. I like to call it a poet, but it’s just a lousy excuse for an uninspired graduate student not knowing how to write. And I must kill it. I found the weapon in Academic English class: conformity and systematic rules to tackle my mis-guided patterns.
(pause for dramatic sigh)
It’s a relief and a disgust to use it.