Thursday, May 9, 2019

Two Writing Tips

The subject of writing tips has come up on twitter, and I have more than 280 characters to say.  My two thought:

Liberate yourself from your work.  Many of us are scared to write.  Here is why:  The worst thing for an academic to feel is stupid.  Yet, we rightfully feel stupid a good proportion of the time.  The literature is vast, everyone knows more than we do on every topic, and our ideas feel pedestrian.  If we don't write, then our stupidity is not exposed.  If we do write, then we risk being exposed for the frauds that we are.  I feel stupid even writing about this.  

Here is the thing.  Your writing is not about you.  It is its own thing, in fact, its own story.  You have the privilege of telling this story, but it is not your story.  So, liberate yourself from it.  Focus on the story itself and not what it says about you.  Because people care about the story.  They don't care that much about you or what the story says about you.  That people don't care about you is freedom.  You still need to be brave and vulnerable to write.  But, you are free to focus exclusively on the story---to give it justice---without excessively worrying about how people will see you, because, honestly, they are not looking at you.

Motivation.  People just don't read because you write. In fact, the easiest thing for a reader to do is stop reading.  I stop reading all the time.  I do so as soon as I no longer know why I am reading something.  And I think this is universal.  People stop reading when they do not know why they are reading..  This need for knowing why holds at all levels of the paper.  Is your material motivated?   One way of motivating material is to focus on a problem/solution format.     Readers can relate to paragraphs that define problems or provide solutions.  If a paragraph is not serving one of these roles, you might want to reconsider what it is doing.  

Often paragraphs that are unmotivated are the ones about the writer and not the story.  They are attempts to show that the writer mastered the literature or some skill.  They might even be those fear paragraphs where we fear if we dont genuflect properly, some generic "they" won't like our paper.  If you cant say why you are writing something, then dont write it.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. The feelings you described here strike a note--I just submitted a paper and felt most of those along the way. Also, learned a great word; genuflect.

Jesse Sannicandro said...

Awesome information, I got a lot of pints from your experience and it would be applicable.

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