Freedom interviews Ros Barber about her advice for focused progress as both an academic and a creative writer. In the interview, two features stand out as perhaps particularly helpful for emerging scholars in biblical studies.
First, Barber is pretty open about her own less-than-immediate path to a permanent academic post. She says,
I had to get a PhD to get tenure. I did my PhD from 2006-2011 and finally got a permanent academic post in 2014.
Barber’s “dogged determination” between 2011 and 2014 substantially resonates with my own experience and what Craig Keener has recently mentioned as well.
Assessments about difficult academic job markets notwithstanding, “never giv[ing] up” has a lot to be said for it, especially if you’re doing (or have done) a PhD in biblical studies because you feel called to the kind of academic vocation it trains you for. And if you’re coming at that vocation from the perspective of a faith community, then both in the PhD and thereafter, it’s worth remembering that laborare est orare. And he who hears prayer, is quite capable of moving and making space in markets. So whether the journey between completing a PhD and finding an academic post is longer or shorter, that journey is basically an exercise in the faithfulness of continually doing the next right small thing that’s in your hand to do.
Second, in keeping with the consistent theme for Freedom’s profiles in this series, Barber offers some helpful perspectives on what she does to help herself write productively. She comments reflects honestly about “losing a lot of time to email, apps, and the internet more generally.” And “even when [she] wasn’t actively procrastinating, [she] would feel distracted and twitchy and find it difficult to get focused.”
Barber has now found it best to “have a complete Facebook and Twitter ban from 9am to 6pm,” and she “feel[s] a lot more focused as a result.” In systematizing her discipline, Barber has found Freedom particularly valuable so that she doesn’t simply have to rely on willpower to she feels tempted to procrastinate or distract herself.
There’s a good deal else in the interview that makes it worth the read. Some of this addresses how Barber schedules her writing and techniques she uses to overcome fear that what she writes won’t be any good. For these and the balance of the interview, see Freedom’s original post.