Blogging often gets cast as a frivolous distraction from more important matters. It doubtless often qualifies as such. Recent weeks have taught me, however, that blogging can in fact help me buckled down and do what has to be done.
Here's a recipe for turning self-indulgent blogging into an incentive to perform useful labor: Acquire the habit of blogging for fun. Discover that the people for whom you work have started reading your blog. Face both a time-consuming obligation to do something for those people and a persistent temptation to blog, instead. Mix in a modest amount of self-respect, a decent susceptibility to shame, and mull briefly. The result: Just desserts for one blogger.
I recently whipped up a strong dose of responsibility using that recipe. Because I'm covering for a fellow law professor out on sabbatical, I'm teaching two sections of Contracts this semester. I thus have over 120 students. I recently gave them a midterm essay exam that, since law professors do not use T.A.s, I had to grade by hand. Because I dread grading, I tend to put it off. But my students naturally want their midterms graded quickly, so that they will have adequate time before the final to improve how they study for and take my exams.
On top of that heavy teaching burden, I also face an undue amount of committee work this semester. I chair the Promotion and Tenure Committee and serve on the Appointments Committee, both of which do most of their work in the fall semester. I also serve as chair of the very active COTES Committee, as a Senator in the university's faculty senate, and on a couple of ad hoc committees. Teaching, researching, and writing, I'd do for free. But the committee work, like the grading, I regard as something I do only because my job requires it.
Judging from their occasional comments on what I've written, my students and faculty colleagues know that I blog. They would doubtless notice, and justly complain, if I were blogging for fun instead of fulfilling my obligations to them. But I like blogging! It thus serves me as a carrot, one that encourages me to serve my students and colleagues. Or perhaps I should say that it makes me an ass, one who dutifully carries his load of grading and committee work in pursuit of the freedom to blog.