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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #51 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, part III. Whether you are seeking inspiration, guidance, writing prompts, or tips for productivity, there is a wealth of information available to get you started. PhD2Published.com and its archives can be a good starting place, as many guest bloggers here also blog elsewhere. Setting up an RSS reader or creating a list of bookmarks or favorites can give you quick and easy access to good sources.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #50 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, part II. It can be helpful to revisit your notes from previous reading before you sit down to start writing, especially if you are working on a literature review or applying theory in a particular context. At times, re-reading the same chapter from a beloved theorist doesn’t provide an adequate starting point or inspiration. Struggling to get started? Take ten minutes and read something dramatically different from what you’re writing. A romance novel, some poetry, a graphic novel…all use different kinds of language to different ends, and may open a new path for you to consider.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #49 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, Part I. One of my mentors once told his students to read the scholars whose work we most like, and read as much of their work as possible. Read widely and deeply. Read for both theory and style. Determine if your favorite scholars are those whose writing you would want to emulate. If so, figure out why. What are those authors doing well in their writing that draws you to it and draws you back again? At the same time that you are learning what you want to emulate in those writers, you’ll learn their foibles and not let them trip you up in the same way. Next week: a different spin on reading before you write.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #48 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Manage your information diet. We’ve often talked about the great benefits of maintaining ties through social media and staying involved in the discussions on Twitter and blogs. But when does good connection turn into difficult overwhelm? Everyone has their own personal limits, but we may not be aware of them until we exceed them. If you are spending too much time looking for something interesting or relevant to you on social media, a more focused search might be useful. It’s also helpful to remember that you simply cannot read or look at everything on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in your RSS feed. Whether you mindfully consider how to manage your information diet or try a “digital fast,” you may find some space opens for you.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #47 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Top Tip: Meet deadlines. Once I was working on a submission in response to a call for chapters for a book. I did not make time adequately and got behind on my writing schedule. I had to finish the last section and conclusion when the deadline came. I wrote to the editor and asked for a few more days. He replied that no one had met the deadline, and he did not want to work with a group of authors who clearly didn’t have a vested interest in the project. The book was abandoned.

Editors are certainly pleased by responsive authors, and your ability to meet a deadline makes the process move not only more efficiently but also on time. You can only enhance your reputation and network by completing your work on time.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #46 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Consider your audience. An often-repeated reminder: your dissertation or thesis cannot be repackaged as your first book without significant revision. Many students find themselves in a position where they are writing primarily for their director and committee, each of whom plays a critical role in the student’s success. If your committee does not see your project making a meaningful contribution to the field, you may get sucked into a spiral of revision that keeps you from completion.

Once you have succeeded and graduated, your audience changes. Do you have a publisher in mind? A press that you would most like to put out that first book for you? Take a close look at what that press publishes. Will your manuscript be a good fit? Is there a particular editor to whom you would submit the manuscript? What books are in that editor’s repertoire? The degree to which you would write toward a particular audience/market changes from one discipline to another, but it can be helpful to bear in mind that an editor will need to know your book is marketable before offering you a contract.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #45 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Find friends from other disciplines. Switching from one discipline to another or doing interdisciplinary research can be a challenge, especially as methods change from one discipline to another.  Yet working with a colleague or friends from another discipline can bring a fresh perspective to your research. Some patience may be required to find a common lexicon, but it is likely that there is more common ground that we might expect from one discipline to another. Should a project idea develop that you can work on together, each of you can be first author for the work in your own discipline. More collaboration, less competition.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #44 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Take stock of what works. Much of the conversation about academic writing and publishing focuses on how to improve processes and be more productive. Many scholars are in the midst of transitioning back from summer break, and the demands on your time will change as the daily routine changes. Consider the good writing and research habits you developed over the summer. Are there routines or habits that you can carry forward into the fall? What can you modify to maintain some semblance of writing in your everyday practices?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #43 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Walk with a light step. Maybe you’ve had a particularly vexing time with revisions. Or a computer error that resulted in a corrupted file. Or you just haven’t been able to meet those perhaps overly ambitious summer writing goals. You don’t need to make excuses for goals that are only in your head. If you’re accountable to a writing group or partner, chances are there won’t be any serious punitive measures. So don’t be unkind to yourself. If you’re gearing up for the Fall semester, think about how you’ll answer the inevitable question: How was your summer? Prepare an answer that demonstrates your satisfaction with something you did accomplish. A former boss used to describe demanding tasks as “good hard work.” What good hard work did you muddle through? And can you walk away from it with a lighter step?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #42 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. In many ways, a successful academic career bears some similarities to owning your own business. While there are some disadvantages, focus instead of the benefits to your time as a writer and researcher. You can often select your own projects, set your own hours, create your agenda, and organize your plans. If you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, what might you do differently? Would you write out short term and long term “corporate” goals? Would you look at the trends in your field to see what new research is being published? Would you develop the equivalent of an advertising plan to make sure your “business” is getting the recognition it deserves? What incentives might you use to inspire and motivate your best employee…yourself?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #41 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Consider switching your schedule. If you feel unfocused or worn out when it comes time to sit down and write, it may be an opportunity to rethink your working schedule. As a undergraduate, I did most of my writing in the afternoon. I wrote my dissertation primarily in the evening. When I started teaching full time, I struggled with writing in the evening. I considered dozens of possible reasons that I couldn’t seem to get any work done until I thought that maybe I was just too tired by the end of the day. If your schedule permits, think about blocking time to write at a different point in the day and see if it changes your productivity.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #40 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Get good rest. Discussions about the importance of being well rested are abundant. An adequate amount of sleep means you can think more clearly, process and retain information more effectively, lower your stress level, and, some say, even lose weight. Being well rested here refers not only to having enough sleep but to having your mind at rest. Whether you are anxious about the quality of your work (plagued by perfectionism), or distracted by what is going on around you or going in your head, most of us have had the experience of having our attention and energy drained by the inability to put our minds at peace and concentrate on writing and research. Spend some time observing yourself at work and see what changes you can make in order to establish a well-rested mind.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #39 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Stay hungry. In his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, Steve Jobs told a story about Stewart Brand and The Whole Earth Catalog. When the final edition of the catalog was published, the back cover featured a photograph of an open country road with the words “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” These were Jobs’ parting words to the students as well. There is much to be said about the value of staying hungry and staying ambitious, and aspiring to always accomplish more. But the first question: For what do you hunger? You may have a list of tasks to accomplish, like a university’s requirements for earning tenure or promotion. But how well do those tasks sync with your own aspirations? Figuring out how to make them match can be a step toward a more fulfilling professional life.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #38 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Be sure you are well fed. A brief metaphorical journey: Research and writing is a multicourse banquet. Aperitif, appetizers, soup, a first course and so on through dessert, with possibly a coffee or cigar to conclude. It is a long and arduous process, but one that should provide as much satisfaction as possible at each step. Some courses take longer to prepare than others, especially if it’s your first time with a particular recipe. A new method, a different theoretical approach, or a new dataset can be daunting, so make sure you have prepared yourself well before coming to the table. Sometimes the banquet gets reduced to a quick bite at the side of the road, when for one reason or another we need to hurry through some part of the process. Don’t be in too big of rush, though. Savor the process.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #37 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Stay thirsty. Dos Equis beer has a widely recognized campaign featuring a character tagged as “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” After describing his vast adventures, the Most Interesting Man ends his commercial messages by saying, “stay thirsty, my friends.” The metaphor applies to research and writing as well. Stay thirsty for your next big adventure—whether it’s going to the lab or out in the field to collect data or sitting down with a stack of page proofs. Being able to savor the adventure of scholarly work requires that you stay hydrated and stay thirsty.