8 Ways in Which Book Blogging is like Grad School
Since the end of the semester is fast approaching and this month has been crazy, I’ve been thinking a lot about grad school and less about interesting book discussion topics ;-). My second year of graduate school is also quickly coming to a close (plus or minus a summer, pfft), so I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I won’t lie: this semester has had some low points for me. For a bit I was seriously trying to figure out if grad school was the right choice and stressing a rather unhealthy amount. However, I decided in the end that it is and that some of my stress was coming from the freaky similarities between my hobby and my career. Therefore, I present the eight ways that blogging is scary-similar to grad school, perhaps in an attempt to be self-aware about both major aspects of my life!
1. You are never done, there is always more to do
- Grad school: Grad school is notorious for driving some people nuts because it is kind of impossible to ever be done with something. Even when you finish a project and publish a paper on it, there are lots of extensions and more projects.
- Book blogging: Similarly, you will never be able to read every single book that gets published and once ARCs start coming in, it can get difficult to keep up. Now that I’m behind on my ARCs, they are starting to feel a lot like my never-ending research ;-).
2. You’re supposed to love it, but sometimes you just can’t
- Grad school: This is one of the biggest things that irks me when it comes to grad school. People always talk about how much you have to love your research so it should feel like play and it just isn’t always true. That sentiment was really what was causing me problems earlier this month since I was worrying that something was wrong with me when I didn’t want to get up and go to work. But when you’re working on the final finicky details of three papers that you’ve had going for over a year each, things aren’t always exciting.
- Book blogging: The dark side of book blogging is that it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. We talk about reading and blogging slumps and they are really just a fact of this hobby every once and a while. There are going to be books that bomb and reviews that don’t write themselves. Since book blogging is a hobby, you fortunately can avoid this a bit more than with some grad school activities, woot!
3. It’s ridiculously easy to overcommit
- Grad school: I’m a naturally helpful person. I really love being able to say yes to someone’s reasonable request and feeling like I have been instrumental in their success. I’m mentoring an undergraduate currently and planning on taking on two more over the summer if they are interested. I’m funded on three projects for the coming year because they all sounded awesome and I had the skills to make them succeed. I’m co-organizing a week-long high school summer workshop because I am passionate about promoting real science to high-schoolers and because I was asked to help. It is entirely possible that this is a horrible plan! But I’ve been saying no to things too! And this really is known as a perennial problem with grad school and academia in general since everyone has so many good ideas.
- Book blogging: Once those review requests start flowing in, they are really hard to ignore. There are just so many cool books to review and it is so flattering to specifically be asked to review them; how can you say no?? I’m getting much much better at choosing my review books wisely, but I’m still completely overcommitted for April and May because I agreed to a few too many things on a whim >.>. I will keep practicing restraint ;-).
4. It’s all on you to keep making progress
- Grad school: This can depend on your adviser, but many of them are so busy that they just don’t have time to micro-manage their students and who would want that anyway? Therefore, it is really on you as a grad student to set yourself tasks to do and then do them. If I suddenly stopped working, it would probably be a week before anyone noticed and that is only because I send weekly progress reports. I could easily make up an excuse and get by for several weeks before my adviser became concerned. This is why people end up taking so much longer than the estimated time to graduation sometimes, must resist!
- Book blogging: While publishers might stop sending you ARCs eventually if you completely stopped reading, book blogging is marvelously a “go at your own pace” sort of hobby. This is great generally, but it also means that sometimes you can look back on the month and wonder what the heck you did the whole time since you obviously weren’t reading D:
5. You’re tempted to always compare yourself to others but you really shouldn’t
- Grad school: I’m fortunate to be in a very supportive lab, so we aren’t encouraged to be competitive with each other. However, there aren’t many academic jobs available and way too many people getting PhD’s, which we are all constantly reminded. Therefore, sometimes it is hard when you and a fellow lab mate are both going for the same grant or publication venue and one of you doesn’t get it but the other does. I really hope it isn’t just me who struggles with this… >.>
- Book blogging: Haha, do I even need to explain? How many posts go up monthly about ARC envy and stats competitions. I know that when I do forget about feeling competitive, I’m a happier blogger, but it is really hard sometimes as I’m sure many of you know.
6. Explaining what you do to outsiders is always a bit awkward
- Grad school: I work in a very small subfield of computer science that combines evolutionary biology and computational skills. I love it, but most people in computer science don’t know what I do or don’t think that it is valid and most biologists are the same from the other direction. Therefore, there is no hope for explaining my work accurately to people outside of those two disciplines, though I do try :D.
- Book blogging: When I tell muggles that I read 100+ books a year, they generally look at me funny. It’s only recently that I’ve been all that comfortable telling my lab mates and some of them read the blog now :D *waves to lurking lab mates*. But I’m sure we’ve all had those awkward moments where people don’t understand why we like to read so much and definitely don’t get what this whole blogging thing is about.
7. The community makes or breaks the experience
- Grad school: The biggest piece of advice I give everyone applying to graduate school in the sciences is to pick an adviser, not a school. The atmosphere of your lab and your adviser’s personality and expectations are second only to the subfield in terms of defining how grad school will go for you (in my opinion!). My adviser and lab mates are awesome, therefore I feel completely capable of making it through. I’ve heard lots of horror stories of bad advisers and destructive lab atmospheres.
- Book blogging: This is my requisite yey community moment :D. Making bloggy friends to talk to and connecting to the community at large really change the blogging experience in my opinion. Sure, you can blog without interacting much with the community, but then it is much more like a personal reading journal than the full blogging experience to me.
8. It’s really awesome in the end
- Grad school: While the day-to-day has gotten a bit emotionally challenging for me this month, when I step back from that I know that there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. I love being able to combine my two favorite fields in a way that allows me to use my strengths from both effectively. I really hope that I get to keep doing this research, mentoring students, and volunteering for outreach as my career *fingers crossed*.
- Book blogging: There might be a point in the coming years that I need to cut back on my post content and reading speed, but there is no other hobby I’d rather have. I love reading, I love talking about books and book related things with all of you, I love the privilege of getting to read books early from publishers. I suspect I’ll be blogging here for a long time, even if I need to take a break to write a dissertation ;-).
Now that you’ve gotten a peek into my brain for the last few months, do you agree? Fellow grad students: did I miss anything :D. Do you ever find yourself drawing comparisons between your “real life” and your hobby?
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