I’ve been thinking a bit more about Graham’s post on being productive. He notes that the majority of his recent pieces have been in response to requests or commissions to write.
Looking my last five years of publications, it’s clear to me that my writing is still largely led by ideas I come up with independently, rather than in response to calls or invitations. The key pieces – books and full-length journal articles – are almost entirely led by my interests rather than commissioned. All the books were proposed to publishers, rather than them contacting me. Only a handful of the journal articles were in any sense invited.
To make this possible, I’ve had to turn down invitations to write on things that have not been central to this trajectory. I’ve accepted most, though not all, invitations to speak (where logistics allow), but usually on the basis of my saying what the topic would be. In other words I use speaking invitations to help with the writing – to try out ideas, or to force me to produce something by a deadline – rather than write up what I’ve spoken about.
I should note that it this is not due to the Leverhulme fellowship I’ve held for the last three years. Almost all of the work done with that fellowship has yet to appear – the book The Birth of Territory is almost completely new material, rather than reprinting previously published work. In fact, though it might not appear so, in the last few years I’ve actually submitted very little to journals, concentrating on the book. Academic timescales are such that there is often a long-time lag between completion and publication. And that means if you want to clear the decks to concentrate on a major project I’ve found you have to start saying ‘no’ quite a while ahead, to allow things to work through.
I currently have no articles in review, due, or awaiting revision. I don’t owe any book chapters or other pieces, apart from a short dictionary entry on ‘Foucault and Space’ for the end of the year. I just have three book projects – one authored, one edited and one five-volume collection for which I’m managing editor – to complete in the next three-six months…
I should stress that – in distinction from my publishing post a few days ago, which was intended as general advice- this is very much what I do.
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