5 Tips for sprinting past writer’s block

Writer's BlockFor most writers, whether they need to start a new project or pick one up that’s been left on the back burner for a while, their biggest writing challenge tends to center around getting started, says Margarita Huerta, Assistant Professor of English Language Learning/Early Childhood Education, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Huerta, who will be presenting a 30-minute webinar entitled, “Writing With POWER” for TAA’s September Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp, shares her strategies for getting past the “block”:

1) As Peter Elbow says, “Write when you are not in the mood”. Just sit down and do it.

2) Dump. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just write out everything and anything that comes to mind without worrying about editing or grammar. Later, go back and refine/edit/parse out the good stuff that came out. This is the whole “separate generating from editing” idea. [Read more…]

Writing gifts: Blogging about academic writing

Patricia Goodson

Patricia Goodson

Maggie Huerta

Maggie Huerta

Peter Elbow once recommended that authors should try to write for non-evaluative audiences; they should experiment donating their writing as precious gifts to readers who would not judge, evaluate or critique, but would merely enjoy the words and ideas1. For academic writers like us — subject ad nauseam to evaluations and tearing apart of our writing – having a venue where we write merely for the pleasure of writing what others enjoy reading is strong medicine. Medicine that can heal the handicap of destructive feedback, nourish the “writing soul”2, prevent abject loneliness during the process, and restore the hope that, yes, we can, in fact, write something others might actually want to read!

Here is the story of how a group of graduate students and faculty at Texas A&M University began heeding Elbow’s advice. [Read more…]

8 Ways to maximize the joy of writing

John Soares

John Soares

Maximizing my happiness and enjoyment of life is my top priority, and that includes my academic freelance writing.

Like me, you probably spend a lot of time writing. Life is short — make sure you get the most joy out of your writing time by following these 8 tips.

1. Write About What Interests You

Specialize in an academic writing niche you love and you’ll find you look forward to your work. You’ll also likely find greater success: you’ll be more enthusiastic when pitching projects to editors or clients, and you’ll get a lot more done in a given time period.

Two of my great interests in life are hiking and learning. I started my career by writing hiking guidebooks about northern California and newspaper and magazine articles about hiking and travel in California and the western United States. Soon afterward I established my main niche as a writer of college textbook supplements; it allows me to continue to learn about a wide variety of subjects in the social, life, and earth sciences. Since I’m really interested in understanding more about the world, I truly enjoy my work. [Read more…]

10 Steps to revising your academic article or book chapter

Many novice writers imagine clean, clear prose springing publishingoff of the fingertips of accomplished writers. Most writers will assure you that it does not work this way. We first write, and then, revise, revise, and revise some more.

Trying to write perfectly the first time around has three central problems. 1) It takes a long time; 2) It can be a waste of time, as you often can only see at the end of a paper what needs to be cut; and 3) Your writing will not be as good in the end because the best writing comes out of revising.

Writing a spew draft of a chapter or an article allows you to work quickly, and lets you improve your writing through revising. Although you may be able to type very quickly – as quickly as a whole chapter in one week, revising it will take much longer. In their book, Destination Dissertation: A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation, Sonja Foss and William Waters offer a multi-step approach to revising an article or chapter. I present a slightly modified version of it below, that explains, in ten steps, how to revise an article or chapter.

Step One: Remove all unnecessary information. Take a first pass at your chapter to cut out any sentences or paragraphs that do not contribute to your main argument. To feel better about cutting liberally, save the rough draft of the paper as a separate document so that you don’t lose any writing that you may want to use later. [Read more…]