At that early stage, I was given some advice by a prominent scholar: if you don’t like where you are or what you are doing, then write your way out. Now, I know that that sort of advice doesn’t work in all fields. But do correspondents think that it is true for disciplines where monographs are the standard mechanism of advancement?
In my own experience of hiring committees, writing well is crucial. I wish I could read everything Beaker Ben ever wrote because he always nails things, precisely and elegantly, so that you seem to get a better understanding of the issues at stake. People who can do that are, I suspect, more likely to get hired because they make the academic life slightly more enjoyable for everyone who reads them. I say this with diffidence. I was a crappy writer when I started in university: patient profs had to teach me grammar, sentence structure and the like, and I’m lucky they took the trouble.
It didn’t make me a great writer but it made me (perhaps just barely) good enough. And I know that a lottery is far and away the best metaphor for the academic job market.
But whenever I read an account like Bison’s, I wonder if writing is a possible problem or solution.