Browsing the archives for the Writing Tips tag

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #64 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Create an emergency. Noting the similarity between “emerge” and “emergency” inspires some word play that leads to creative thinking about deadlines. Many writers will agree that deadlines can be a strong motivator: when you finally reach the point where you absolutely must get your writing done, there is little choice but to put everything else aside and focus on meeting that deadline. Now imagine creating a microdeadline that is an emergency: I absolutely must finish this paragraph/abstract/outline/chapter before I do anything else. On deadline, we’ll excuse ourselves from obligations to family and friends, let the call go to voice mail and let email go answered. What might emerge if you create a small space of no contact with an urgent deadline for yourself?

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #63 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)What will you call it? When I teach public speaking, I encourage students to title their speeches in progress, often as a first step in writing. That title may never be spoken, or known to anyone but the speaker, unless someone read a written version of the speech. Perhaps even better than writing a thesis statement (which often seems to vex undergraduates), the title helps students remember what they are working on and stay on target as they are researching and writing. This method can be useful for any essay or manuscript in progress. Giving it a title is also a way of making it manifest.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #62 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Did you make a resolution? Now make a plan. A goal without a plan is likely to go unfinished. We’ve talked about setting microdeadlines here before, and breaking big goals down into small pieces can make clear how to meet your goals in a manageable system. If you set a project goal, try to get an idea of all of the component parts. You might then set a backward timeline: if you know that you want or need to have that article finished by mid-April, how much work do you need to do each day or week in order to complete it on schedule?

Is your resolution to write every day? If so, determine if you can adequately manage that. That some days are quite full with other responsibilities may make daily goals difficult, so setting them quite small can be helpful. And if you miss a day? So be it. Set it aside and get back on track. It’s easy to abandon daily resolutions when goals are met for a day or two. Don’t give up, and don’t give up hope!

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #60 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Writing the sonnet. A poet friend who was working on his MFA thesis had a unique method for settling his writer’s block. He typically wrote free verse poems, structured by his own style and aesthetic. But when struck with times where he struggled to find a rhythm, he would lean on traditional rhythms to get started.

This isn’t meant to suggest that you transform your data into iambic pentameter, but rather that you might use that meter, a haiku, or an acrostic as a quick remedy to the frustration of not having a place to start.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #59 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Put a new spin on your research topic. Filmmaker and artist Ze Frank describes his process for getting unstuck by considering the extremes of something: What if we had a scarcity of X? What if we had an overwhelming amount of X? Sometimes it is difficult to step away from our set relationship with our topics and see things from a different perspective. Yet doing so can provide new insight into our areas of research expertise. Even ridiculous questions can yield helpful perspectives. If aliens landed on earth and I had to explain X, what would I say? If a baby put X in its mouth, what would it taste like? What color would this thing be? If it were part of a cargo cult, why would it be revered? Do we cherish X? Do we deplore it?

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #50 by Linda Levitt
Posted 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.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #41 by Linda Levitt
Posted 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.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #37 by Linda Levitt
Posted 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.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #36 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weeklly 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 hydrated. During the summer months, there are often reminders in public discourse about making sure you drink enough water throughout the day. But the dangers of dehydration aren’t only for athletes and people involved in physical labor. Dehydration affects your mental labor too.

Neuroscientist Joshua Gowin, writing for Psychology Today, notes that we simply need to stay hydrated to stay at our mental best. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll have trouble staying focused. Your short-term memory function and long-term recall can both be affected negatively. You might even struggle with simple math, let along complex calculations.

So keep a glass or bottle of water or your favorite beverage close by. If your favorite beverage is a cup of coffee or tea, no worries:  Sarah Klein at the Huffington Post reports that “while caffeine is dehydrating, the water in coffee (and tea, for that matter) more than makes up for the effects, ultimately leaving you more hydrated than you were, pre-java. Consuming 500 or more milligrams of caffeine a day — anywhere from around three to five cups of coffee — could put you at risk for dehydration.”

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/dehydration-myths_n_3498380.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201010/why-your-brain-needs-water

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #34 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Ask your mentors. Recent PhDs often experience one of two polarities: on the one hand, a sense of utter exhaustion and the need for a serious break from research; on the other hand, a giddy sense of getting on with one’s research agenda. It’s not unusual to experience both intermittently. Now is a good time to ask your mentors for best practices on publishing. The answer will vary from one discipline to another and from one researcher to another. Your dissertation project may yield a series of peer reviewed articles, or may be the seed for your first book. It may be good to set aside your dissertation for awhile and come back to it, or the field may be just right for you to start working on a revision. You may also have other projects that have been tabled while you finished writing your dissertation and are waiting for your attention to move toward publishing. As the old adage goes, all endings are new beginnings (note that graduation is called commencement), so now that you are finished, think about where you want to start.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #32 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Put your primary reference sources in Goodreads or an amazon shopping list (and you can keep both private). Many scholars have their books in various locations—bookshelves at home, at an office, sometimes in storage—in addition to not having on hand copies of books borrowed from the library or from a colleague. The source list is a quick fix for when you need to build a citation or to recall a somewhat-forgotten passage from your frequently used theorists.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #29 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Get TOC notifications. Staying current with academic journals in your discipline and areas of research interest can help shape your research agenda in positive ways. Keeping track of what is being published can also be a time-consuming burden. You can facilitate the process with Table of Contents notifications from your favorite journals. If you have an RSS feed, you can easily subscribe for alerts. Many journals will also send email alerts to those who sign up for them.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #28 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Sort your projects. Many readers can see summer break around the corner, along with the opportunity to delve more deeply into research. If you don’t have that circumstance ahead of you, this is still a good time at the change of seasons to assess your research agenda. A writing group chum suggested sorting projects and project ideas into three categories: urgent, priority, and save for someday. Getting a sense of what you have to do and what you want to do—and making some choices in the process—can be a good first step to setting yourself on a productive trajectory. Don’t discard those “save for someday” ideas, as they may be a good for a call for proposals or a collaboration down the road.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #27 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Another note to self. Do you have a paragraph in an essay you’re working on that vexes you? Or maybe an idea that you can’t seem to sort out? Print out or write down some of your work-so-far and carry it with you. When you have a bit of downtime, pull out your note instead of your phone. Checking in with social media is important, but checking in with your research can be even more meaningful. Spending time with your research periodically in spaces away from those where there is pressure to write can also alleviate some of the discomfort that occurs when you get distanced from your research-in-progress.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #25 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Notes to self. Overwhelm and disorder are common to the writing process. Not only is it a challenge to keep papers, books, and electronic files in order so they are easy to access and use, it is also easy to get distracted. Sometimes a question will lead to an hour-long rabbit hole of searching for another source or pursuing an idea not immediately relevant to your writing project. An easy reminder to stay on task is to write your thesis statement on a sticky note and post it on the corner of your screen. It’s not there to nag you but to help you stay focused.

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