In a post last summer, I waxed ever so poetically and philosophically (cough cough) about the relationship between writing and Sushi.
In the post, I suggested that writing demanded considerable repetition and practice. When we watch a skilled sushi chief, everything seems so smooth and easy. What we do not see are all the hours spent practicing his/her craft. We do not see all the countless hours of mistakes and miscues (yet, the fantasy of being present for those, and being able to eat the mishaps and miscues, is appealing).
It strikes me there are several other ways in in which writing an article are like sushi.
First, there are some things that are mandatory, but some things are based on preferences and who you are. For example, good sushi demands high quality fish. A good article demands a tight structure, and clearly following through on what you propose. However, not everyone likes to use soy sauce with their sushi. Not everyone mixes the same ratio of washabi (horseradish) to soy sauce. Knowing what is essential and what is optional is really important.
Two, being good means relying on your strengths, but also stepping outside the box and taking risks. A good sushi chief will always rely on what he/she does well, but will try combinations that surprise, delight, and sometimes fail. As a scholar, you need to do the same. Stay with your bread and butter, but make sure you don't become stale. Innovation and the creation of new knowledge demand the later. Being productive demands the former.
Well, I think this is a good start- I will pick up this metaphor soon.