Way back when, I did a post on biking, as part of “Japan Blog Matsuri,” but I don’t feel I see these sorts of things come up too often. I’d be happy to do more of them, if they came around more often. Today, with thanks to Leah of The Lobster Dance for nominating me to blog on it, we have a post about my writing process. I really enjoyed reading about her process, and am glad for the poke, the push, to write about my own.
In the words of Gene’O:
The rules are very simple and, if I may say so, designed to not require a lot of work, which I truly appreciate:
*Link to the blogger before,
*answer 4 questions,
*and nominate 3 bloggers to keep the hop going.
Why do I write what I do?
I feel I have written about this before, so apologies for the rehashing, but, I think there are two interconnected motivations behind my maintaining this blog. One is that as grad students, we are encouraged to really focus in and specialize, and even when we’re not working on our specific research project (in my case, on activities of Ryukyuans in early modern Japan), we’re taking courses and reading books on particular topics (this week, Robert Hellyer’s Defining Engagement, on Tokugawa foreign policy). And yet, we all have so many interests; if I limited myself to only my coursework/scholarly writing, and didn’t blog, I would feel terribly constrained. So, the blog allows me to write about different periods and aspects of Japanese history & culture, about issues of tradition and identity, about gender, about pop culture and comic books, about art exhibits and museum studies. And, furthermore, it allows me to do it in a context where I don’t have to revise and revise and revise, where it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished, as formal scholarly work does, for my advisor or my committee or for peer review. The blog is, of course, a much more public side of what I do, especially given I’ve barely been published yet in the formal scholarly world, and I am perpetually worried about how it might affect my scholarly reputation, to be honest, but, even so, it’s not like proper published journal articles, which really do define your scholarly reputation.
The second interconnected motivation is the desire to feel actively involved in the Internet. I read all these blogs, listen to podcasts, watch far too many YouTube channels, and here are people who are really engaged and connected, and it makes me feel like I want to be engaged and connected too. Not that I expect I’ll ever become an Internet celebrity, or anything, but, especially since life as a grad student can seem quite provincial/local in a way, talking to nobody outside your department, or nobody outside your campus, and even when you go to conferences or get published, it doesn’t circulate all that widely, and only happens relatively infrequently. So, this is my way of feeling actively engaged, reading about or watching things every day, responding to them, feeling connected in with what’s going on around the world, the blogosphere, current events, current events in pop culture, whathaveyou.
lol. This is already so much longer than Leah’s post. I just can’t help it.
How does my writing process work?
Generally, I get an idea, and just start writing something, a very rough draft. Generally it happens when I don’t have a lot of time – either I’ve just read or watched something, and feel I just need to get my thoughts out while I finish my breakfast before I rush to campus, or sometimes (especially a few of my upcoming posts that I’m still working on) I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, and just need to get those ideas down before I forget them, but without staying up the whole rest of the night writing. Or, in the case of posts about art exhibits or other things I’ve seen or done out in the big wide world, I often take notes during or right after the experience, and then later on (usually, hopefully, days later, and not weeks or months later…) I type up those notes into the beginnings of a blog post.
I don’t plan things out, at least not explicitly, consciously. I mean, I think about it, of course, think about what parts will come later, but I don’t do formal outlining or anything. For the most part, I just write. Which is probably why most of my posts end up really long, and kind of rambly, and not really so tightly structured as some other people’s…
Generally, I write a blog post in two or three sittings. I don’t rewrite and rewrite, revision after revision, but I have that first draft, that first germ of an idea, and on the second sitting, I come back to it, expand it out, write it out into a full post. And then, I usually leave it until another sitting to put in all the links and the pictures and such, before hitting Publish.
Incidentally, in case anyone’s curious (and I know I’m curious how others do it), I write the HTML tags into my posts. Nothing fancy, clearly – I’m not playing with CSS or PHP or anything at all, just hyperlinks and pictures, and very basic text formatting mostly – but I do type it out, and don’t use the Visual editor, or any of the “click here to start underlining,” “click here to Insert Picture,” buttons.
How does my writing differ from the genre?
I guess it all depends on who I compare myself to. When I write about travel, at least sometimes I think I’m fitting more or less right into the genre of people who write about their day exploring this or that town. If I compare myself to many of the blogs on Japanese pop culture and its intersection with gender (lol; I say many. Leah’s is really the main one I read; I don’t know what other ones I’m even thinking of), or with reviewing or talking about pop culture otherwise, I think my posts are generally much more historical, traditional, or “high” culture of one sort or another. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about pop culture, and I love thinking about pop culture, but, somehow it just doesn’t turn out to be my focus.
I think my blog sort of bursts boundaries or categories. Which is to say, I’m all over the place. I lack focus. Some people are much more properly and exclusively blogs about Okinawa & Okinawan culture, or about Japanese cultural events in New York, or about ukiyo-e, or about literature, and I kind of dabble in each and all of these. I tend to think of my interests and my focuses as being on (1) early modern Japanese history, (2) issues of tradition in the arts, (3) art exhibits & exhibit design, (4) Okinawan history & culture, (5) Noh & Kabuki, but there I’ve already mentioned five different things, and I know I’ve posted blog posts on things outside those topics too. So, maybe I’m right there firmly within the genre of people who write about all sorts of things, lacking a single distinctive theme/focus for their blog.
What am I working on at the moment?
I dunno. Let’s go check out the ol’ Drafts box.
-a post on gender roles in Firefly and Game of Thrones which just sort of came to me in the night and which is only a very rough start and which might not go anywhere
-a feminism/gender-informed post on the characterization of Jean Grey.
-one responding to an article harshly criticizing the East-West Center
-a post on the impending strengthening of bans on the import/sale/transport of ivory
Thanks again to Leah of The Lobster Dance for nominating me to do this. To those I’m passing it along to, no pressure. I know these things aren’t for everybody.
(1) Kathryn of Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kathryn’s a good friend from back in the IUC days, and though we haven’t seen one another in person in quite a while, I think of her as one of my close colleagues in Japan Studies, and as one of those vibrant, wonderful writers/thinkers/bloggers on contemporary pop culture. Somehow, for whatever reason, literature remains a gap in my arts/theatre-centered thinking of Japanese culture, so it’s good to have exposure to the lit side of things; plus, I don’t find (make) time for anime or manga much, so it’s great to feel connected to what’s going on and have such a great source of recommendations. Plus, Kathryn’s just an amazing writer and awesome all around person.
(2) Marky Star of JAPAN THIS!
I haven’t met Marky yet, but boy am I impressed with his blog. He focuses mostly on local Tokyo placenames, working out their etymologies and histories, but there have been some equally great articles on the shoguns, on historical topics like sankin kôtai, and in the last few weeks, Marky has taken on the unenviable task of trying to sort out the histories of Tokyo’s rivers. His blog posts are always deeply informative, and while he’s touched on it somewhat, I’d be curious to hear more about his research and writing process.
(3) Molly of Wasting Gold Paper
Molly is another good friend from the IUC days, and also another close colleague in Japan Studies. Her blog includes, among other things, some great resource articles on doing research in Japanese sources, and things like that, as well as posts about digital humanities and digitization issues. As someone so involved in digital humanities, and as someone who knows like a gazillion computer languages, I’d be curious what her writing process is, too.