In a recent post at Inside Higher Ed, Lee Skallerup Bessette discusses the way writing sometimes comes easy and sometimes comes hard. She is noting how a general love of writing doesn’t necessarily mean that academic writing will get done. To combat this unfortunate fact, Bessette has adopted a more consistent approach to writing productivity. To learn more about this process, I also recommend her series, An Academic, Writing, on her work with a writing coach from Academic Coaching & Writing.
I am particularly interested in the idea that we might be setting ourselves up for an unrealistic goal if we strive to love writing. Graduate students will sometimes say to me that they used to love writing before they came to graduate school. Before, in other words, all the unspecified expectations and ambiguous requirements and confusing genre conventions. During graduate school, writing often becomes deeply unlovable. Unfortunately, some of us stall as writers while we wait for the loving feeling to come back: if we can’t love it, we may conclude that we hate it. Or, to put it another way, we may give up on writing when it isn’t going well, rather than just persevering in the knowledge that writing is often nothing more—for long stretches of time—than hard work.
Following the #acwri Twitter feed, you sometimes see people saying that writing just isn’t working out for them that day. Now, of course, there are times that abandoning writing for the day is absolutely the right thing to do—and only you will know when the best response is a run or a drink or a bit of quality time with Netflix. But I know from my own experience with thesis writing that waiting for inspiration in order to write would lower my productivity to undetectable levels. For most people—including me once I eventually figured this out—theses get written through many bouts of uninspired productivity and rare moments of inspiration. Those moments of inspiration are amazing, but if we wait for them, we usually hamper our ability to reach our own writing goals.
Recent links from @explorstyle on Twitter
From Geoffrey Pullum in the Lingua Franca blog, on the apostrophe: Do we need it and is it even ‘punctuation’?
From FT Magazine, a claim that social media is actually improving the quality of writing.
Have you tried an
#acwri chat? Here’s a #Storify of the latest one on literature reviews.
From Lingua Franca, a great discussion of the Oxford comma and the broader issue of consistency in punctuation.
From @yorkuniversity, interesting research on how people multitasking on laptops in class may distract others.
From the NYT, what reverse outlining looks like for a fiction writer.
From @thesiswhisperer, what we can all learn from the impressive time management skills of part-time doctoral students.
From @ThomsonPat, wise words on needing to be alert to the language we use for talking about our research.
From IHE, a discussion of the proposal at Duke to require a short and accessible video to accompany a thesis.
From the Crooked Timber blog, a great
#IWD post on equality for women in academia.
From @fishhookopeneye, an excellent analysis of the distorting effects of familiarity on thesis writers.
From the NYT After Deadline blog, a great reminder of what dangling modifiers are and why they are worth avoiding.