Monday, November 02, 2009

From Inside HigerEd: U Presidents, Thesis Writing

by J J Cohen

Two articles that make a great deal of sense. First, an argument that the best leader of a university valuing research is a successful researcher. That might seem obvious, but the connection often eludes search committees.

Second, a helpful blog post by Peg Boyle Single about getting a dissertation done via writing as a daily practice. Although I realize I write too much, and clearly do not suffer from the hesitations perfectionism instills, the piece underscores some practices that have been essential to my own craft:
  1. get a sufficient amount of sleep (exercise helps a great deal)
  2. write in the morning, before the brain soaks up the minutiae of the day and the innovative connections that make for compelling argument are difficult to form
  3. write every single day, even when the words don't want to arrive. Better to delete later than to have created nothing.
Single speaks of writing from the wide perspective of argument rather than the small view of word choice, observing that dallying over terms causes the quicksand to swirl. I don't fully agree with this dictum: obtaining le mot juste is often what propels me forward. Then again, I would not dither over words for long since I know my doom is to return and to revise. I also find my three electronic thesauri to be among my most important tools.

How about you? How do you get writing done?


Rob Barrett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Barrett said...

Panic. Sheer, utter panic.

Bavardess said...

I used to work as a journalist so I was very adept at the practice of writing every day (either that or get fired). These days, though, I'm not convinced that works so well for me. I find unless I'm pretty clear about what I want to say and why I want to say it, and I'm in the zone where I'm ready to commit it to paper (even if I haven't done the wrangling of perfect word choices or sentence flow), the writing can serve as a distraction from actually doing the deep thinking. Writing in those circumstances can let me fool myself into believing I'm being productive and achieving something when I'm not.

Personally, my best work comes as big chunks of writing done intermittently, with days in between (or sometimes weeks) to let it sit and 'cure'.

I'm also a dreadful morning writer (my morning writing is usually serviceable, but bland and uninspired) and find late evenings are when I really get going.