Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing in public

We bloggers like to think of ourselves as "public writers," as doing our writing and our thinking out loud as it were. However, a lot of us do other kinds of writing that we may or may not want to be public. I posted my dissertation notes and drafts online because I was writing about the benefits of students writing in public, so I felt it was important that I write in public. Despite my years of blogging before that, I still felt a little uneasy about posting my early material online. I was nervous for the reason that my faculty colleagues say they're nervous about posting online--getting scooped--but because there's a certain vulnerability I feel when I'm putting an idea I really, really care about out there. When that idea is still in its infancy, when the words I'm using to express it are still a jumbled mess, I feel even more vulnerable, especially because I know that at some point the idea will grow up and I'll find the words to describe it appropriately. Why put it out there before then? Well, a few reasons. One, I found it a valuable experience to hear what other people thought about my ideas as they developed. Two, I think it kept me honest in a way. I consciously thought about an audience at a stage where I might not, and for me, that was helpful. And three, it demystifies the writing process to some extent. And that brings me to what inspired this post, a post from Kathleen on a writing in public project from the Institute for the Future of the the Book.

Siva Vaidhyanathan is writing The Googlization of Everything in public. There have been similar projects on both an article and book scale and I think it's worth paying a lot of attention to, especially those of us who teach writing. These may indeed do a lot to demystify writing for our students. It's just interesting to see, too, people interacting with the ideas in a book. You don't get to see that very often. I'm also interested in Google, so I'm looking forward to contributing something or just watching.