Academic Pubs, Part 2: The Act of Writing

For previous posts on this topic, see:

Perhaps a better phrase is the PRACTICE of writing, because actually doing it, over and over and over and over, is the best way to improve and to get over the intimidation factor.

The Practice of Writing

Be Regular… If You Can

You’ve got to write in order to publish, and honestly that’s the tricky part. Having a writing schedule is helpful for many writers… but that’s a case of do as I say, not as I do (more on this later). However, even if you can’t keep a schedule, be regular by writing or doing some activity toward writing (research, academic reading, talking to colleagues, thinking in the car on the way home) to keep it churning in your brain, marinating with all those other ideas. You’d be surprised how a half-hour commute home spent thinking about topics while listening to music can get a lot of work accomplished in your brain!

Track Your Ideas

Keep a page (preferably online; mine’s in my wiki) with notes on all your preso/pub projects, even the ones in brainstorming stage. Mine has notes on the status of each project, but even if you just list the title or topic, at least you have something to think about and work on in those spare ten minutes when your meeting gets out early. So it’s a research project you don’t have the time, expertise, staff, money, or other resources for right now? Put it down anyway, and when that magical moment comes, you’ll have notes about where to start. It’s also a great list to start with when brainstorming with a colleague.

Allow For Failure

I’m talking less about rejection, and more about your mindset about the process. So you goof off during designated writing time one weekend? Okay, accept that you lost three hours reading celebrity fashion blogs (ahem, guilty!) and that you’ll work on that project tomorrow instead. Missed a deadline for a presenting opportunity? Move on to the next one. Don’t berate yourself and waste more time on academic or personal guilt. I’m so familiar with this you’d think I was raised in a Catholic boarding school, but: it’s really okay. Dust yourself off, chalk that up to the downtime we all need, and move ahead without a second thought. (Yes, much easier said than done. But don’t obsess over THAT as well, right?!)

There is NO Rule or Process

Yep, all these tips and rules I’m giving you? Forget it. Throw it out the window if it doesn’t work for you. I’ve read tons of books/articles that say to succeed in academic or creative writing, you must have scheduled, regular writing time set aside, preferably at the time of day your brain works best (morning, for me). I DO NOT do this. I am a fulltime manager working on my dissertation with too many projects and a spouse living abroad. I can’t make myself get up early to write, I won’t regularly write each night, and I have accepted this. When I can make myself do it, I do. If I can’t, I try not to obsess about it but to fully participate in and enjoy what I’m doing at that moment. It’s a learning process. If I’m not as productive as I could be and the clean laundry sits in the basket for weeks next to a manuscript piled with dust, I know that eventually I’ll get something done, and for now that’s good enough.

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