When he died the sociology professor Niklas Luhmann left behind his Zettelkasten, a system of hyperlinked index cards, amounting to ninety thousand paper notes. He credited this system for most of the breakthroughs in his academic career but as a fellow writer I always wondered what sustained him. What kept him writing notes all those years?
As it turns out professors earn their keep through research as well as lecturing so Luhmann always had a professional incentive to grow his garden of ideas. To the best of my knowledge professors are considered eligible for tenure if they publish a certain amount of academic papers per year and Luhmann did just that.
I think it’s harder, though never impossible, to write when it seems like only you care about the writing.