Monday, February 13, 2012

Academic writing rules

I happened to come across the Get a Life, Ph.D. blog, which is focused a lot on writing. Writing is the lifeblood of any academic, since publication of written work determines success in our discipline. There are now a number of different blogs that focus on writing, or at least the mechanics of getting something ready to submit for publication. It's a useful thing to discuss.

What tends to turn me off, though, are the rules. The explosion of blogs about academia mean a concurrent proliferation of people prescribing academic rules. Increasingly, I cringe when hearing rules you must follow to succeed. I like suggestions, but rules grate. Take the following:

Don’t stop for anything. It is only 20 to 30 minutes, and nearly all phone calls, emails, visitors, and even bathroom breaks can wait.

That would kill me, and I mean kill me dead, and I just don't see the point. I don't understand why I would willingly become the prisoner of a timer, especially if I really need to go to the bathroom. By all means, try it if you like. If it works for you, then great, but look at it as one rather odd possibility as opposed to a rule.

Look, we all have rhythms. Some like night, some like morning. You like office, you like home. You like checking a particular citation as you go, or you don't. You like longhand, or you like typing. You like saving PDF sources, or you like printing a hardcopy. You like checking email, or you don't (why this obsession with not checking email? Doesn't make sense to me). If you have kids, then you work around their schedules, which defy all easy rules. You do well in 1-2 hour chunks, or 20 minute speed sessions. Some like writing groups, others prefer solitude. You like self-abnegation, or you don't.

So make sure you don't get discouraged if other people's rules don't work for you.

See also my post on ignoring advice for academic bloggers.


KevinJ 11:47 PM  

Very good advice. On another note, I'm really looking forward to the SECOLAS conference in Gainesville. I was excited to see that you're President-Elect! Hope I see you there!

Greg Weeks 10:15 AM  

Thanks--my website is actually outdated, as I am currently president.

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