Paul L. Caron

Monday, August 14, 2017

Write No Matter What: Advice For Academics

Write No Matter WhatJoli Jensen (Tulsa), Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics (University of Chicago Press 2017):

With growing academic responsibilities, family commitments, and inboxes, scholars are struggling to fulfill their writing goals. A finished book — or even steady journal articles — may seem like an impossible dream. But, as Joli Jensen proves, it really is possible to write happily and productively in academe.

Jensen begins by busting the myth that universities are supportive writing environments.  She points out that academia, an arena dedicated to scholarship, offers pressures that actually prevent scholarly writing. She shows how to acknowledge these less-than-ideal conditions, and how to keep these circumstances from draining writing time and energy. Jensen introduces tools and techniques that encourage frequent, low-stress writing. She points out common ways writers stall and offers workarounds that maintain productivity. Her focus is not on content, but on how to overcome whatever stands in the way of academic writing.

Write No Matter What draws on popular and scholarly insights into the writing process and stems from Jensen’s experience designing and directing a faculty writing program. With more than three decades as an academic writer, Jensen knows what really helps and hinders the scholarly writing process for scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Cut down the academic sword of Damocles, Jensen advises. Learn how to write often and effectively, without pressure or shame. With her encouragement, writers of all levels will find ways to create the writing support they need and deserve.

Inside Higher Ed, Author Q&A on Write No Matter What:

Q: A common complaint of professors is that they can't find time to focus on writing. What do you recommend in terms of finding the time? Do you favor "every day" or finding concentrated chunks of time?

A: I recommend spending at least 15 minutes a day in contact with your writing project. This offers frequent, brief, low-stress daily contact with your writing project which helps keep the project “write-sized.” It can include “ventilation,” which is spending 15 minutes writing about how you don’t want to work on your project at all. Daily project contact makes it much easier to commit to and use longer (but no more than 3 hours) writing sessions each week. Naturally prolific writers choose to write a few hours every day, but most of the colleagues I work with commit to daily 15 minute contact, with a plan for longer scheduled writing sessions 3-4 days a week. Faculty writing groups, focusing on accountability (not content critiques), are great ways to maintain weekly writing time commitments.

Table of Contents

Part I. Writing in Academe   1 Letting Go of the Dream 2 Demystifying Academic Writing 3 Craftsman Attitude

Part II. Using Tools That Work   4 Three Taming Techniques 5 Securing Time 6 Securing Space 7 Securing Energy

Part III. Challenging Writing Myths   8 Draining the Drama 9 Demons in for Tea 10 The Magnum Opus Myth 11 The Impostor Syndrome 12 The Cleared-Deck Fantasy 13 The Hostile Reader Fear 14 Compared with X 15 The Perfect First Sentence 16 One More Source

Part IV. Maintaining Momentum   17 Follow the Lilt 18 Beginnings and Endings 19 Finding the Lost Trail 20 Effective Feedback 21 Handling Revisions and Rejections 22 Working with Stalls 23 Relinquishing Toxic Projects 24 Back-Burner Projects 25 Breaks, Summers, and Sabbaticals

Part V. Building Writing Support   26 Overcoming Isolation 27 Creating Faculty Writing Groups 28 Building Campus Writing Support Conclusion

Afterword: Writing for the Public

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I'm not an academic, but I write a lot, particularly on medicine, and I find Scrivener makes it far easier. There are version for Macs, Windows and iPhones/iPads. You can find the various versions here:

It is an amazing tool, equally useful for novels, papers, and books. There's a one month free trial for the Mac and Windows versions that's days of use not just days.

It's particularly great with complex topics that may need frequent reorganization.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Aug 15, 2017 1:28:23 PM