Shifting gears between writing fiction and scholarship is hard. I'm gearing up to write a scholarly article on American narratives of the apocalypse and, while I know where I want to take the piece and I have a clear notion of which resources I want to use, I'm already resisting the composition.
Well, with scholarship, the central goal is to acquaint your audience with good reasons to agree with you. Sure, there needs to be a genesis for thesis and organization, and there's creativity in that, but I've always looked at academic writing as more synthesis than initiation.
The creative burden with writing scholarship is in reasoning and advancing proof, not in building worlds and characters and driving a story through its stages.
The roads do converge at that juncture of belief, however.
Good fiction renders belief, to a degree, ineffectual to the process of understanding. What I mean is I should never have to ask why is this happening? or can this happen?
That's because good fiction insists that, like it or not, it is happening, damn it.
Belief plays a role in scholarship as well, but its power rests in selection, not creation. I mean, in a piece on the apocalypse, I'd be hard pressed to convince any rational person that the recent rash of "celebrity" deaths spelled the onset of the end times.
In the final analysis, I'm lamenting the fact that it's hard to switch hats. I know, I know--shut up and get the work done.
But for as long as I've been actively polishing my prose, I've always worked simultaneously in short and long forms. I've written a novel in each of the last three years, and I've almost always had a short story cooking at the same time. It makes it hard, but I can't imagine not doing one or the other.
That said, moving into the realm of scholarship and criticism gives me pause. Aw hell, right? Off to the library, I guess...