As many of you will know, the Researcher Professional Development Team has a Twitter handle @thinkaheadsheff.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking after the account and as a result, I came across what I found to be a really interesting article. This isn’t always easy as the speed of traffic and new information that comes across the home feed is staggering to a luddite like me.

Anyway, on Friday 2nd September, The Guardian newspaper published an article entitled, “My dirty little secret: I’ve been writing erotic novels to fund my PhD.”  The article is a perspective piece from an academic who, as the title suggests, has written erotic fiction and found it well received by consumers.

It wasn’t so much the article itself that I reacted to, it was more that I felt my own reaction was out of kilter with the implied response.  All I could think was, ‘this person is both creative and entrepreneurial’.  I wondered, is the awkwardness and ‘shame’ the writer describes rooted in the fact the books focus on erotica rather than say science or crime fiction or is it just a pure case of, ‘one person’s weed is another person’s wildflower’.

I decided to go back to Twitter and see what the masses had said.  There were a few replies to the tweet but none of them seemed to take a position of shock or derision, in fact many were very complimentary:

“I don’t see why this would make the news?? People do this sort of stuff it’s normal; it’s not controversial in the slightest :/.”

“This person is my new academic hero – bravo!”

I also recall a couple of others that stuck with me, one about someone confessing their ‘secret shame’ being that they read this genre of books and another being doff of cap impressed that someone completed a PhD and three novels in such a short time period!

As often happens, song lyrics popped in to my head to illustrate my point

A man’s called a traitor or liberator. A rich man’s a thief or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist.”
(‘Wonderful’ from Wicked, A New Musical)

I am left considering the nature of perspective and how we can potentially limit ourselves by accepting a viewpoint without challenging it or considering whether there might be another way to look at it.

Old or young?

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I think it is critical to our individual progress to be bold, take chances and to always ask questions.  Being entrepreneurial or creative should be something we embrace because while we all do have different viewpoints and varying skills, what we definitely share is a common potential for growth.

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