6 Takeaways from the TAA Writing Gym
Over the last six weeks, TAA Writing Gym members have had the opportunity to participate in six writing classes designed to help them with their writing, including creating goals, identifying their audience, getting their research organized, writing clearly, proofing and revising their work, and getting their work completed. Here is a takeaway from each of the six classes.
1) Catch every dream you have.
In the first writing class, “Eye on the Prize: Create Goals That Move You Forward,” Susan Robison, former professor of psychology and department chair at the Notre Dame of Maryland University, taught us to “catch every dream you have!” Write them down as they occur, and when it’s time, discern them into specific goals, and then further into manageable tasks that can make them a reality.
2) Take an audience inventory.
In the second writing class, “Be a Team Player: Write For Your Audience,” Michael Greer, educator, editor, author, and owner of Development by Design, introduced the concept of taking an audience inventory and developing user personas. Who is your primary audience? Why are they here? How much “insider knowledge” do they have? To get started developing user personas, he suggested checking out Xtensio.
3) Define a single place for your research.
In the third writing class, “Proper Technique: Organize, Document and Present Your Research,” Eric Schmieder, computer technology author and TAA’s Membership Marketing Manager, shared strategies and tools for organizing, documenting, and presenting research. One of the key organization strategies presented was to define a single place for your research – either paper or electronic – and be consistent in your routine and placement of resources every day.
4) Avoid overused phrases and redundant words.
In the fourth writing class, “Lose the Academese: Be Smart Without Trying to Sound Smart,” John Bond, publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting, provided thirteen ideas for how to trim down our academic writing. As he noted, “No one sets out to write jargon-filled, dense material.” One of the best ways, according to Bond, to trim your writing by up to 15% is to avoid overused phrases and redundant words.
5) Tackle your work’s length.
In the fifth writing class, “Hone Your Skills: Proof and Revise Your Work,” Barbara Price, senior development editor for the largest publisher of higher ed science textbooks and courseware in North America,follows up on Bond’s lesson on trimming the fat from our writing, by reiterating that length is the first challenge to tackle when revising a written work. Additional things to look for: natural and logical transitions, well-developed ideas, logical consistency, and a predictable pattern or “rhythm” to make reading easier.
6) Remember: It’s only the first draft.
In the final class, “Get Started, Continue Your Draft, and Finish!”, Noelle Sterne, dissertation coach, editor, writing consultant, author, and writing and meditation workshop presenter, encouraged everyone to accept this mantra: “It’s only the first draft.” With that thought in mind, she then told us to expect. Expect to write. Expect the ideas to flow. Expect that you won’t be happy with the first draft. Expect that you will get better. And expect that the work will take shape.