Writing for publication in scholarly journals means a great deal to me because I am invested as part of a larger community of people, in advancing discipline specific knowledge in nursing. I am aware that dedication to this form of dissemination rests within a Eurocentric, Northern Hemisphere, white view of the world of knowledge that has dominated scholarly discourse for centuries. It is a limited form of discourse that has historically silenced or limited voices in writing and approaches to writing based on contrived standards that have perpetuated norms associated with the highly educated at highly regarded academic institutions. The impacts of neo-colonialism in writing practices go beyond the production of publications. “The institutional consequences affect the training and promotion of scholars, and the distribution of academic resources” (Ergin & Alkan, 2019, p. 259). Further, scholarship may be influenced by one’s social positioning as well as “surrounding linguistic and intellectual traditions” (Winter, 2020, p. 41).
One of the mysteries of publishing is a conundrum of my desire to publish my work, reconciled with perpetuating a singular form of white, Eurocentric scholarship? By the way, I should say, that I appreciate this blog series’ reference to the mysteries of publishing. I relate to the concept of mystery as opposed to problem, because problem is something to overcome versus mystery as something I can get caught up in. Navigating this mystery is to appreciate the nature of academic scholarship today as it is, and rather than abandoning scholarly writing, to find means of publishing that comport with my values and beliefs. For me, this takes the form of being selective about venues for publishing. It requires finding a how where I share a common understanding the scope and values of a journal and looking for policies and practices that address concerns of racism. For instance, Advances in Nursing Science, provides specific guidelines related to racism in publishing that includes the statement, “Remain mindful of the many ways in which white privilege is embedded in scholarly writing, and engage in careful rereading of your work to shift away from these explicit and implied messages” (Wolters Kluwer). Many other journal editors, publishers, and editorial boards have been cognizant of problems of racism, and similarly addressed these concerns through precise author guidelines. More importantly, these statements call for mindfulness that raises consciousness and ends with authors actively monitoring their writing to address tendencies toward white privilege.
My own scholarly writing has been focused on a broad, abstract conceptual system, the science of unitary human beings. I feel a deep responsibility for translating the knowledge of this conceptual system meaningfully into a praxis. One of the mysteries of publication in this area is navigating my own landscape of knowing that consists of many blind spots. These blind spots are the ones in which my years of investment in a particular conceptual system creates a sense of ease and familiarity with very abstract conceptual and theoretical terminology. The mystery of publication in this realm for me is how to step outside of the language and position myself as a novice reader. Afterall, it seems the goal of writing in the first place is to share compelling ideas and information that might be useful and meaningful to others and eventually comport with improved nursing practices and care of human beings. This also requires mindfulness of terminology that may be meaningless to those unfamiliar with the science of unitary human beings and allowing myself to become a translator in some sense. One way I have attempted to traverse this mystery is to write in common sense terms, often demonstrating the use of actual experiences that comport with conceptual meanings. The language of people who are not nurses can be very useful. Tables that outline concepts and link them to praxis add to clarify of understanding and attention to the usefulness of abstract conceptualizations converted into theory and action.
Another important method to clarify and integrate abstract concepts is the use of diagrams. For many years I was challenged by presenting a coherent narrative of unitary appreciative nursing praxis (Cowling). I came to realize that to explicate my own theoretical thinking in relation to the science of unitary human beings, I needed an image that would complement the narrative. I think of imagery as conveying meaning and meaning explicating ideology. In the diagram I crafted of unitary appreciative nursing, to demonstrate unity, continuity, and flow inherent in appreciating wholeness, I chose the lemniscate or infinity symbol (see Figure below). However, I also discovered that while this symbol is grounded in mathematics it also conveys deep cultural symbolism. I also found that this symbol was imbued with the meaning of limitlessness and infinite possibilities. These are meanings that I wanted to convey in terms of the emancipatory possibilities within healing from this perspective. The point here is that the creation of the diagram was an outgrowth of composing a manuscript with the intention of improving my capacity to translate such abstract theoretical thinking to a larger audience.
Another mystery related to publishing is how to appreciate and benefit from some reviewer comments that oftentimes suggest lack of knowledge and understanding of the phenomena, theory, and concepts described and explained in a manuscript. It is common to receive three reviews with very different perspectives on the quality and meaningfulness of the content of a manuscript. I recently encountered a set of reviews in which one reviewer was pleased with the content of manuscript and willing to accept it without change, even though they expressed some questions and concerns. A second reviewer provided a much more non-specific review questioning the overall value of publishing my manuscript. A third reviewer was generally positive with some specific concerns along with suggestions for improvements. It took me a couple of days to remember that it was in my best interest if I were to achieve publication status, to set the manuscript and the reviews aside for a few days. When I first read them, I inexplicably got caught up in what I perceived as the negative aspects of the reviewers’ comments. What I found in revisiting the review comments were extraordinary opportunities to revise and improve the content of my manuscript. One of the changes that came out of this review was a change in a diagram that I was so highly invested in over the past two years, that ended up making it much more precise and communicative. It is the diagram shared here. The mystery for me here was to figure out how to transcend my investment and blind spots and leverage the reviewer comments to achieve a more explicit, expressive, and explanatory accounting of the scholarship.
There is always the mystery of the relevance question. In my professional career, I have often encountered the contention that my work or someone else’s work is not relevant, mainly on the grounds that it is “too theoretical.” I fear that this often prevents scholars from writing provocative and innovative manuscripts grounded in novel theoretical thinking. There is a form of criticism of the relevance kind that claims that the work presented doesn’t advance the science or practice of nursing. Relevance is defined as “the degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening or being talked about” (Cambridge English Dictionary). In that regard, I believe that one of the most crucial challenges of writing for publication is to write in such a way that you make a compelling case for the purpose of your manuscript – that is being useful to what you are talking about. I believe the other forms of criticism can often be linked to the enduring colonization of academics, science, and scholarship that is grounded in the Eurocentric view of what counts as relevance, often a proxy for empiricist thinking. As an author, I think it is best to sort out the relevance mystery.
These examples of the mysteries alone cannot account for the overarching enchantment of writing for scholarly publication. The nature of writing is filled with engagement – with the topic and with others, such as co-authors, mentors, and even reviewers. Wonderful mysteries do intensely engage us, and I experience this to be the nature of writing – sometimes wondrous and sometimes painful – it’s usually worth the journey.
Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). Relevance. In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved October 11, 2022 from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/relevance
Cowling, W.R. III. (in press). Unitary appreciative nursing praxis. Advances in Nursing Science.
Ergin, M., & Alkan, A. (2019). Academic neo-colonialism in writing practices: Geographic markers in three journals from Japan, Turkey and the US. Geoforum, 104, 259-266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.05.008
Winter, E. (2020;2021;). On Max Weber and ethnicity in times of intellectual decolonization. Cambio (Firenze), 10(20), 41-52. https://doi.org/10.13128/cambio-10753
Wolters Kluwer. (n.d.) Specific Guidelines Related to Racism. In Advances in Nursing Science: Information for Authors. Retrieved October 11, 2022 from https://journals.lww.com/advancesinnursingscience/pages/instructions-for-authors.aspx