From the University of Venus blog, here is a post on the relationship between writing anxiety and graduate school. This post made me reconsider the proper balance between the demands of a coherent discourse community, on the one hand, and the writer’s own need for creative expression, on the other. I generally argue that the former is a source of productive limits, of limits that push us to be explicitly aware of our audience while writing. I believe that some of the anxiety of writing can stem from a lack of limits: being able to say whatever we want can sometimes stop us from saying anything at all. My response to the writing anxiety of graduate students is often to encourage them to use those disciplinary limitations to their advantage. Assuming a place within an ongoing conversation can feel more manageable than having to create something entirely new. But perhaps I should be more aware of those students for whom this insistence on form suggests a closing of possibilities in their writing. Teaching an activity such as writing requires one to establish what is true for most writers and what may be true only for some. Do you find the notion of joining a discourse community comforting or claustrophobic?
Here is some advice from The Chronicle of Higher Education on academic writing. This list of ten ways to write ‘less badly’ is full of interesting ideas; I particularly liked the author’s suggestion that when we are deeply engaged with our writing we may actually be quite inarticulate about what we are doing. One of my standard pieces of advice is to have an easy capsule version of a thesis project (because I think life is better when you can easily answer the ‘what are you working on’ question). But I love the idea that our frequent inarticulacy can come as a result of being immersed in the moving waters of an ongoing and engaging project.
Finally, here is a post from Stuff Academics Like: Can you spot the fake article title? I actually appreciate outlandish article titles, so I didn’t view this as an exercise in mockery. I should probably add that I appreciate these titles personally; officially, I always sound an appropriate note of caution about fancy titles. Be particularly wary of puns: an experienced journal editor in your field has heard them all before.
I also liked the advice from the Chronicle on academic writing. I can almost hear my friends who prefer “doing to thinking” sighing when I answer what it is I’m doing. Sometimes one of them isn’t much more articulate than I am until they get me in front of a car needing work. That’s when their hands can do the talking.
I also found it really helpful to be reminded that goals set on output are better than on input when writing with a deadline. Writing is the product being marked after all, not reading.