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Fine-tune your writing productivity with four Scholar Actions©

Writing and publishing are not the sole definition of an academic scholar, but these two activities are major roles that faculty fulfill. Academic writing and publishing are also primary expectations for career advancement, including the dissertation writing process. At each major point along the career trajectory of a faculty member—from assistant to associate to full—academic writing and publishing are there. Even in my role as an administrator, I continue to write and publish as well as mentor others through the process.

Over the years, I have developed my scholarly voice through my writing and publishing, but I still continue to develop my practice. I am a work in progress. But how did I come to this developing as a scholar? It is quite simple in some ways. I developed good habits to support my writing and learned the process of academic publishing early in my career.

There are four guiding Scholar Actions© that I use to support my academic writing and publishing process. I developed these actions as a doctoral student, and they continue to serve me now. These are also the four actions I use to mentor others in developing as a scholar. These Scholars Actions© are designed to encourage your development as a scholar and guide your habits of productivity.

First, you must prioritize writing. I set dates and times for writing. Just like making a doctor’s appointment, schedule your writing time and do not miss it. Know when (time of day) and where (home office) you are most productive and keep your date with yourself to write.

Second, you must develop your process of writing. I develop my writing by writing. Reading journal articles and books is good, but you have to write. Developing your voice in writing, and especially academic writing, is a process that you must practice. Academic writing is a genre that you can most effectively learn and develop through the act of doing it.

Third, you must set goals and deadlines for yourself. This connects to the first Scholar Action© of prioritizing your writing. I set goals and deadlines by writing them on my calendar. For example, I set daily, weekly, and semester goals for my writing by planning out what projects to work on and making progress toward completion. In my process, I work to meet my deadlines days prior to when they are due. This gives me some time to lay my work aside and later come back with fresh eyes. In addition, if I have gotten off schedule, with this strategy I still have time to complete my projects.

Finally, the fourth action is you must keep track of your thinking and writing. I have several notebooks to write my thoughts, reflections, and ideas. I know there are many electronic sources available, but I enjoy handwriting my thoughts in a notebook, drawing pictures, and seeing my ideas in front of me! By having notes in my notebook, I do not have to start with a blank page.

These four principles are action-oriented steps to enhance your writing practice. They work together to provide a foundation for a holistic program of productivity, so that your words will fall onto the page.

Like words falling onto the page

Felicia Moore Mensah, Professor, Columbia University, recently released the eBook Like Words Falling onto the Page: Demystifying the academic writing and publishing process. A concise and easily accessible book for introducing and supporting graduate students and junior faculty in the writing and publishing process, the book offers assignments, tips, and personal experience about the writing and publishing process.