When I went to the first CSU Writes workshop, Dr. Quynn asked the participants a simple question.
“Who are you as an academic?”
The first thought that came to my mind was “I am researcher”. Quickly followed by “I am a teacher” and “I am a mentor”.
The above three things are true, but why hadn’t the thought “I am a writer” crossed my mind? At this point, I had written manuscripts, fellowship applications, abstracts, and reports, but I did not consider myself a writer.
To be a scientist is not to just be a researcher, but to also be a writer. I am both a researcher and a writer, and those two things are not mutually exclusive. To be a scientist, I need to communicate my results. To be a writer, I need something to write about, and I think my science is a pretty good topic.
My revised answer to “Who are you as an academic?” is “I am scientist. I am a writer. I am a researcher. I am a mentor. I am a teacher.”
Changing my perspective changed my writing
Once I changed my perspective and understood that I was a writer, I found it easier to privilege my writing time. Instead of pushing my writing to the side and ignoring my writing until it was crunch time, I added time to write a few times a week. At first it wasn’t much time, but it is amazing what 1 hour a week of focused writing time can do when you are used to having no dedicated writing time.
Once writing became something that I did regularly, it was no longer something I was forced to do or had to do. Writing became something that I wanted to do. My daily writing time became something a looked forward to. It was the calm I needed in my hectic, experiment filled days. Writing became my craft, and before I knew it, I was identifying myself as a writer in addition to a scientist.
So I ask, who are YOU as an academic? Are you a writer, a scientist, both, or maybe something different? And if you do not consider yourself a writer, why?