Thursday, October 11, 2012

The day I became my grandparents

I woke up with bunions and put on stockings and chunky ill-fitting shoes. Did yoga and flipped through Prevention magazine. Took suggested supplements, especially vitamin E. Spritzed with White Linen. Stuck tissues in my sleeves, and went to the hairdresser. She did an awful job on the blow-dry, but I’ll manage. Sent this week’s batch of birthday and anniversary cards. Went food shopping. Shoved extra plastic bags in my purse. Made apple cake, apple pie, roasted a chicken. Rolled out noodles. Rolled out mandelbrot. Rolled out rugelach. With cream cheese dough. With sour cream dough. Washed the car, got on a ladder and cleaned out the gutters. Cleaned the garage. Caught up with family and friends. Kvelled over good news, especially related to children’s academic achievement. Tsk-tsk-ed at all the bad news. Ate family dinner. Knit sweater. Listened to books on tape. Laughed at late night TV. Fell asleep to AM talk radio squealing in my ear.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing Woes

I love designing and doing experiments. I love analyzing data. I love doing experiments and looking at data with students. I love deriving equations. I love teaching.

All of these parts of my job are easy and fun compared with the writing part. I don’t dislike writing, I just habitually procrastinate my writing because everything else is easier and feels like more fun. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Low-level attention disorder? Who knows. What I do find I need is practical advice and continual support and reinforcement.

I have much to say professionally: data to show, ideas to share, and papers to write. I still have a long way to go to be the academic writer I would like to be, but I’m much better than I used to be thanks to these two of my favorite resources for academic writers.

1. The writings of Robert Boice, the gentle godfather of all academic writers.

I recommend Advice for New Faculty Members for anyone who is or would like to be a professor, or for anyone who works in a multifaceted creative job. Boice stresses Nihil Nimus, meaning nothing in excess, or everything in moderation (I notice that Boice, like the Old Testament, prefers the negative formulation of commandments, e.g.  don't rush to writing, don't wait until you feel ready, don't neglect other priorities like rest, socializing and exercise )

For more of a detailed walk-through of a very practical behavioral therapy approach to academic writing, consider reading How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure.

2. The Academic Ladder Writing Clubs

Online writing clubs providing coached support for small groups of academic writers. Partially based on the philosophies and ideas of Boice, above.
There is a monthly feel. Consider asking your adviser/department chair/dean/chancellor to pay for your membership, as part of your professional development.

For free, here's a preview: Write in brief, daily sessions. Brief can be 15 minutes. Daily is important.