Part of an academic's work - one of the best parts, the part that got most of us into this gig in the first place - is research and writing. Yet many of us struggle with it, especially the writing. The research is fun: Go off to Bolivia, hang out with people, jot down lots of notes and so on, eat out on the NSF's dime. But then you've got to sit down and write it up. And though I love to write, I find it to be a very challenging task.
Summer time is the academic's time for writing, and for me that time is particularly compressed, as I tend not to get too much writing done while I'm leading the study abroad program. But this summer started out really well. In the first two weeks after classes ended, I revised an article for resubmission to a journal, and wrote and submitted another one. But now it is time to sit down and start writing my new book. A book! How does one begin such a task? Before I can even begin, I have to wade through thousands of pages of fieldnotes, interview transcripts, secondary documents, and published texts, all to figure out what I want to say. Only then can I decide how to say it. A truly daunting prospect.
I will admit, though, that I have written the first five pages of the introduction. So maybe its not as bad as it feels at this moment. The enormity of the project has to be understood as a series of small steps, each day adding a little more to the cumulative result. It is easier to write a couple of pages than to write a book.