Women In Academia

It’s Been a Long Week So Let’s Talk Writing

This has been a long week. I saw a post on tumblr recently that documented a great example of academic dude-bros mansplaining their metaphorically big butts all over the place. This has been too long of a week for me to even get into how depressing it is that even with PhD tacked onto your name, some Broseph McKnowitall still thinks it is reasonable to interrupt you and teach you about your field. So instead, let’s look at some cats while I talk about writing.

Hissing cat with its fur standing on end
Angry cat from wiki commons, by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

Writing. Even the act of thinking about writing can turn a person from a contented bucket of lovely and squishy humanness into a rage monster, here depicted as a cat, or a self-deprecating and bashful, erm, lobster (note: I have no idea what animal or supernatural creature can best be described as self-deprecating and bashful). I have no idea what it is about writing that flips that switch so completely, but there it is. Not to get too philosophical, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that writing creates written documentation of our ideas and our work and by extension ourselves, leaving us open not only to the judgment of others but also to our own observations of the gulf between what we want to be and what’s on the page. That’s just a hunch.

There’s also this pervasive idea that good writers are just good writers, their ability to communicate via the written word springing out of them full-formed like Athena chopped from Zeus’s head. So when writing is hard (and writing is always hard at first), some people decide that means they are horrible writers with no hope of improvement. Nothing could be further from the truth, except maybe Paul Ryan (hey-ooo look at that topical, edgy, political humor).

Cat snoozing, draped on what appears to be the arm of a chair or sofa.
Lazy cat, my favorite type of cat, by PiccoloNamek

I’ve written about writing before and I know I will write about it again. For starters, I simply adore adding a little meta to my week. For seconders, no matter how many times I talk about writing, there’s still more to be said, usually in the form of encouraging or reminding people to write more regularly. I bet you have a paper or grant deadline looming. Why not start now? It just takes a couple of minutes to get something started. You’ll make progress sooner than you expect. And even that aside, here are three great reasons to put pen to paper today.

  1. It will make you feel accomplished. You’ll have a physical document of some sort of concrete productivity. When so much academic work takes place in the brain, it can sometimes feel like a whole day passes without much getting done. Writing always makes me feel like I’ve gotten some real work done. It makes the whole day feel really well utilized and productive.
  2. It will make you a better writer. Not only are you creating a product, but you’re developing a skill at the same time. Look at you, catching too birds with one stone. (I don’t care for the real version of that idiom – way too violent.) Now that is true productivity.
  3. Your writing will not be a sexist jerk who mansplains to you about the basic tenets of whatever field you’re in.  You will not be interrupted by your writing, but –and here’s the fun part – you are able to interrupt it. This may be small comfort, but like I’ve been saying, it’s been a long week.

9 replies on “It’s Been a Long Week So Let’s Talk Writing”

I am trying to write every day, in some form or another.

I’m in a yearlong novel workshop led by author Rebecca Makkai, and it’s really helping me to push forward with my current project (which started as my 2010 NaNoWriMo). The progress is slower than I’d like because I have a ton of other stuff on my plate right now, but at least I’m working on it.

I DO feel better once I’ve written, but like everything else, the hardest part is getting started.

No lie, what’s helped me amazing amounts in academic writing was my background in creative writing. While I have a tendency to get overly wordy, creative writing taught me flow, active voice, metaphor, and how to turn a phrase to get your impact through.

Obviously I’m still learning on what makes a great paper. But I do think these things helped me bring some valuable skills to the table.

It also helped fuel a love for writing, which is invaluable considering all the words I have to slog through typing on a weekly basis…

I have so much writing going on lately (and on into the foreseeable future). It actually took me starting a blog to get over some of my writerly self-consciousness. I tried to write something in the blog every few days, preferably about something I was supposed to be writing about anyway, but I never shared it with anyone. I actually didn’t make it private either. Eventually, people started finding it on their own. And then they started “liking” things that I wrote. So I got double bonus of just getting used to starting on a blank page every couple days, having a space to parse things out before I put them into a publication, and I started getting positive feedback from strangers.

Although now I’m in the problem of finishing my various things… or writing as much as I need to to make a deadline… ugh, grad school.

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