Freeing ourselves from creative blocks

When we experience a block in our writing, we may blame our deficiencies in the technical aspects—grammar, word use, sentence structure, consistency of details. Often, though, when we fixate on technical problems, we’re avoiding the more pervasive creative blocks. After all, editors can fix our technical errors. Only we can fix our creative snags.

In my work as editor and coach for writers, I can point out the faulty technical aspects in their manuscripts—repetition of “pet” words and phrases, passive voice, overuse of adjectives, overload of clichés. I can recommend grammar guides, style resources, and lists of synonyms.

Reality check: 5 Ways to combat imposter syndrome

I can’t do this! What were they thinking when they picked me to write this textbook? Who am I to be conducting this research? Everyone at this presentation is going to know I all of this already. I have nothing new to offer to this conversation.

These are just a few of the messages that imposter syndrome may share with you as an author in academia. And each can be the wall that limits or delays our success. Or we can find ways to get a reality check and overcome these false feelings of being unqualified for the task at hand. Below I offer five such ways to combat imposter syndrome.

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: June 14, 2019

As I complete this collection of articles from around the web this week, our 32nd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference is underway in Philadelphia. Over the next couple of days, authors from different disciplines, backgrounds, and geographic regions will come together to discuss topics of common interest, each with a common goal of becoming a more successful author.

This week’s collection includes some ideas that face most, if not all, of this diverse group, including writer’s block, thesis statements, data visualization, authorship, and author contribution. It also contains articles on specific issues facing subsets of our collective authoring community, including work/life balance for PhD students, diversity factors in awards and recognition, and open source initiatives and funding.

No matter the differences among us, and whether you are here in Philly with us this weekend or part of our larger authoring community, know that you are not alone. Take comfort in the things that we share and that are shared with us. Happy writing!

3 Time problem areas and how to handle them

In her recent TAA webinar, “Creative Scheduling For Those Who Have ‘All of the Time in the World’ and ‘No Time At All’”, Katy Peplin identified three areas that commonly result in time problems: focus blocks, priority blocks, and scheduling blocks. If you’re having difficulty managing your time, chances are you’re dealing with one or more of these blocks.

But there’s good news. Peplin also shared specific actions that you can take to overcome each of these three blocks.

To keep writing, use a time log

“What did I do today!” you wail. For the life of you, wiped out at the end of the day and ready for binge TV, you can’t remember anything you did except overeat for lunch. Maybe you recall writing for eight minutes midmorning and half-heartedly pecking at your journal article in progress, but otherwise the day’s a blank. And paradoxically, you feel you’re always so busy, dashing from one thing to the next and never getting it all done.

Sound familiar? Where does the time go? Especially for academic writers, with the responsibilities of teaching, mandatory committee meetings, office hours, reading endless memos, emailing responses, and comforting a colleague who just got her article rejected—again—it’s an ongoing challenge to take hold and wrestle our writing time to the ground, or desk.

Should we succumb to ‘the mood’ to write?

We all have trouble getting to the desk. Loads of articles, blogs, chapters, and seminars by writers for writers advise how to get to it, stay at it, and finish the damn thing. And some of them help, like Schumann’s (2019) dictum to do fifteen minutes a day or the pomodoro method (Cirillo, 2018) of twenty-five minutes on, five off. Schumann and others also counsel that inspiration is a cheat. If you believe you must wait to write until the right mood strikes, you’ll never get much done. Many writers nevertheless persist in this myth, supporting it with impressive rationales. Some blame external circumstances: