What's all this about?
Writing and publishing are significant parts of our professional lives in an academic environment. We are working on articles, grant proposals, teaching philosophies, reviews, editorials, monographs, stories and novels. Often, writing is a very isolated endeavor and we don’t have opportunities to talk about the process, our struggles, or how to get feedback from readers within and outside our own departments. The Center for Faculty Excellence at TWU has started this new initiative to foster communities of writers that will enhance productivity, collegiality, and the exchange of ideas across the disciplines and organizational boundaries.
What academics need from a writing group is not criticism but, rather, encouragement, benevolent peer pressure, and accountability. We need advice on overcoming the obstacles that keep us from writing in the first place. We need help getting our writing done — not just planned and agonized over. We need to learn how to manage our time and how to carve out 'writing niches'. Productivity techniques often work best when there is someone giving us little reminders. Committing to an academic writing group that focuses on setting regular writing goals helps to hold yourself accountable.
The Top 5 reasons that keep faculty from writing:
- Thinking 'I'm too busy'
Successful writers schedule writing into their lives. Make an appointment to write, even if it's only 15 minutes a day or two hours per week, and keep that appointment with yourself as you would a meeting with a colleague or a class. Writing begets writing.
- Avoiding writing and getting distracted
Reading, researching, making lists or talking about writing are NOT writing. Writing is writing. When it's time to write, turn off email, phone, Internet and other distractions as much as possible.
If you need to look up a reference or email a colleague for something related to your project, wait until after your scheduled writing time is over.
- 'I'm the only one struggling to get the writing done'
All writers struggle at some point, and most of us work better when we can exchange and develop our ideas by bouncing them off other people. As academics, we often assume writing should be a solitary activity, but that approach can be isolating and unproductive. Writing is work, and very few writers create a perfect academic article in one sitting and without any feedback.
- Waiting until a late draft to get feedback
Writing is a process, and we need support to advance our writing whether we're trying to determine how to turn a semester's worth of data into an article, how to respond to an editor's critique or how to frame a research proposal.
- Not planning
In order to keep from starting from scratch each time you write, keep a running list of each writing project, corresponding tasks, and deadlines and put the list in a visible place in your home or work office. Check off items as you go.
For example, keep a whiteboard in your office and list things such as "Submit X article to X journal. Date March 15th. Rough draft complete: Feb. 1st. Share with colleagues for feedback: Feb. 15th. Final edit: March 13th. Write letter to journal and submit: March 15th."
(adapted from: https://today.duke.edu/2012/02/top5writing)
An excellent way to get started?
A good way to get into the habit of writing is to start or join a writing group. First, you may want to ask yourself some questions:
- What do I want from a writing group?
- What do I expect from a reader of my works-in-progress?
- What can I contribute as a reader of others’ works-in-progress?
- What are my priorities for a writing group?
- What’s more important to me: professional publication, or personal satisfaction?
- What kind of timeframe can I reasonably expect to maintain?
- What kind of interaction with others do I want (face-to-face meetings once a month, online forums daily)?
You can ask first-year tenure-track faculty who are in your cohort to join you in a writing group. You could work through your dean. You could ask the Center for Faculty Excellence for recommendations. Your chairperson or other campus mentors could help you find facilitators for your group if that’s the way you want to go. (You might also choose not to have an outside person in your group, as sharing responsibility among group members is more your style.)
What do I have to contribute?
What have been your experiences with writing groups (face-to-face, online, or other forms)?
What are some of the solutions to writing group obstacles you have found?
What are some of the many benefits?
What advice could you offer new tenure-track faculty as they begin the process of writing for a living?
(adapted from: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/new-faculty-writing-groups/22732)
- The Trick to Being a Prolific Scholar
- Scholars Talk Writing: James M. McPherson
- Why Academic Writing Stinks
- How to Survive Rejection
- How to Write Less Badly
- Scholars Talk Writing: Michael C. Munger
- Academic Writing: How to Stay Afloat
- How to Make Time for Research and Writing
- Aiding the Writing Stalled Professor
From the Chronicle of Higher Education: Steven Pinker diagnoses what ails academic writing, and four experts offer advice on potential cures. Download the free booklet directly from here.
The Textbook and Academic Authors Association (TAA) provides professional development resources, industry news, and networking opportunities for textbook authors and authors of scholarly journal articles and books.
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Page last updated 2:58 PM, February 9, 2024