Twelve ways my PhD prepared me for blogging

Today, in a post on his Word Sell blog, content optimisation guru Brad Shorr offers some great advice to anyone thinking about launching a business blog.

In his post, Brad asks other bloggers how we prepared for our entry into the blogosphere. Looking back – though I didn’t know it at the time – I think I prepared for blogging by doing a PhD. (The reason I didn’t know it at the time is mainly because the world wide web hadn’t been invented then – gosh, that makes me feel old).

Anwyay here’s how I think doing a PhD can prepare you for blogging – or, indeed, how blogging might prepare you for doing a PhD.

1. With both, you’ll never really know exactly what it entails until you’ve done it.

2. It’s going to be much, much harder work than you think it’s going to be. Why do you suppose so many PhDs and blogs are abandoned after an enthusiastic start?

3. Despite point 2, both can be a source of tremendous satisfaction if you’re passionate about a topic.

4. You do need to master some basic research skills before you start writing. For my PhD it was knowing things like who were the big players in the field, understanding which bibliographies to use to track down the relevant scholarship and using concordances to target particular areas. In the blogosphere, as Brad points out in his post, it’s all about understanding things like RSS and knowing which bloggers you can’t afford to ignore.

5. For me, both have enhanced my career, but the benefits to my wallet aren’t necessarily immediately apparent. Demonstrating my expertise is a long game.

6. Few PhDs end up going in the direction their authors set out on at the start. Expect your blog to do the same – you’ll undoubtedly end up blogging about stuff you’d not even considered before.

7. Both can be very lonely ways to pass the time. To this day, not a single friend or family member understands what my PhD was about. Similarly few of them are remotely interested in my rants on the finer points of the English language on my blog.

8. Point 7 is mitigated by the fact that both can also be a great way to meet new people with shared interests. When I was doing my PhD I was privileged to work with the top brains in my field. Likewise, through my blog I’ve been privileged to interact with some wonderful peers in the virtual world.

9. PhDs, by definition, must contain original thinking. Likewise, don’t start a blog unless you’ve got something original to say. “Original” doesn’t have to mean out-of-this-world, never-been-thought-of-before ideas (if it did, about one PhD a year would be written). It might be a new way of looking at a topic or a synthesis of current views, but either way it should add something of value to what’s out there.

10. You can’t write a PhD in isolation – nor a blog. Indeed, interacting with other thinkers and writers in your field is your best source of ideas. Just as a footnote in a scholarly journal can set off a whole new train of research, so several of my posts have started life as a comment on another blog. This post is one of them.

11. It’s amazing how generous other bloggers can be. As with scholars, you’ll generally find it’s the successful ones who are most willing to give you their time and attention.

12. Finally, for me, my blog gives me an outlet for my personal obsession with the meaning of words – which is pretty much what my PhD on Old English poetry was about, too.

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5 Responses to “Twelve ways my PhD prepared me for blogging”

  1. brad shorr says:

    Clare, Bravo for seeing so many similarities between things I never would have put together. Isn’t that something poets do better than anyone?

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Indeed, and the very vocabulary of Old English poetry in particular expresses perceived similarities between things. It’s full of compound nouns that are very condensed metaphors, such as “whale-road” for “sea” and “bone-chamber” for “body.

    Sigh – I wouldn’t go back to academia, but I miss it sometimes.

  3. Your point about generosity is well taken. I’ve been surprised how quickly advice and support is passed along.

  4. Clare Lynch says:

    Glad you’ve found the blogosphere such a friendly place, Fred.

    Something odd is happening in the link to your site in your name. It seems to go to a holding page pointing to a spammy looking site offering investment advice – which is different from when I do a Google search for you.

  5. Nic says:

    Sad to have lost those evocative compound/descriptive nouns. My guess is that it’s got something to do with a language’s nearness to an oral tradition. Homer is the obvious example, but one can still see it operating in a language such as Gaelic (e.g. cailleach-oidhche, literally old woman of the night, for owl). Perhaps as a language moves towards the written word there is a greater need for pithiness? Having said that, nouns in as ancient a written language as Chinese seem to be almost universally compound.

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