Friday, December 21, 2012

No end of the world!

Well, it is well into 21st in Thailand, and still no end of the world. Guess we can't use that one as an excuse to not write!

Spent the day writing a book review for a journal edited by colleagues here- I forgot how much fun they can be. Writing books reviews are great ways to think through issues I have not considered for a while.

500 words down, and lets see if I can get the last 500 before the world ends!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


One of the words that I use frequently about the writing process is "messy." Writing is messy process, more often than not. We do not get to have our ideas easily actualize themselves into an article. It is hard work, with progress and problems, delights and depressions- it is messy. One of the hardest things for those new to academic writing is the messiness, or at least a willingness to allow for it, to take chances, to let go of an easy and orderly path. In many ways, this is normal, as new authors do not have the track record needed in order to feel trust in themselves, faith in the process. Expect that the process will not be smooth, linear, or easy, and you will not set yourself up for too-high expectations.

Learn to become ok with the messiness of the process- it is inevitable.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thank you, Srinakharinwirot University, School of Economics and Public Policy

Yesterday, I conducted a 3 hour workshop on writing and publishing for faculty and doctoral students at this university in Bangkok. I was so warmly received, so welcomed, and so deeply engaged, that I wanted to say thank you here. Each of you who participated reminded me deeply why I love this work.

I wanted to send a special thanks to Dean Renu and Associate Dean Caren for their warmth and caring. I hope this begins the start of a productive collaboration. Dr. Caren  especially has been a wonderful and engaging partner, setting up my visit and my work with the faculty and doctoral students.

Kab Kun Krap

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cafe writing, Bangkok

I am writing from a cafe in Bangkok. Well, I am actually writing from a cafe in Bangkok that is attached to a Subway sandwich shop- one of the many fascinating examples of the complexities and torments of globalization. Here, just off Sukhumvit, one of the longest and most populous streets in the world, you will find a diversity of humanity like few other places.

And what does this have to do with writing?

A few things.

First, write everywhere.

Second, writing in new places pushes my writing in ways I cannot anticipate. I am almost "gifted" ideas and new and perspectives, in spit of extreme jet lag.

I love writing when I travel- it is truly when I am most creative, and most productive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Back from Philadelphia last night. On the plane, I was able to do some taking stock, of my writing projects, things started and not completed, things yet to be started.

It felt good, five hours to check in, take stock of my writing agenda, and see where things are. I am coming out of one of the busiest period of my life-I am looking forward to some unstructured time to think, think and write beyond the little bit I have done each day.

Tomorrow, off to Thailand- a conference, research, and then to work with my co-author on the new writing book. Our task, read it out loud together, see if anything needs to be added, and begin to query publishers.

And in this space, more time, slightly less structured than my daily life, slightly less full. I pledge to myself to recommit to a few articles in progress, and enjoy some unstructured time without the daily rhythms of family and faculty life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Call for papers

Reading calls for papers is a good way to stimulate creative thinking on potential articles. Check out this great list from the American Criminological Society, even if this is not your area of interest.

Do a search for calls for papers in your own field as well!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Edit, last sentence first

If you edit your paper starting with the last sentence, and then move backward through your paper, you will catch a lot of errors (if they exist!) that you would not have otherwise caught. This seems to trick the brain into moving from content to grammar and sentence structure.

Try it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

First Draft Done!

My coauthor and I have completed the first draft of our new manuscript,

Writing and Publishing in English: A Guide for English as Second Language and international Scholars. We are excited about it. Of course, the work is far from over. We still need to work our way through a second draft, making sure to identity and improve any problematic areas. Now, we begin the process of looking for a publisher. We have our query letter, a sample chapter, and a short list of top choices. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On joy and pleasure: More on not liking to write.....

When I hear people say that writing is not fun, or that they do not like to write, I am reminded of the difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure is an experience that is more related to the moment, to that which provides immediate gratification. Joy, on the other hand, is not an experience of immediate gratification, but is more about an overall experience of satisfaction. Yes, at times writing does not be great pleasure, but it usually brings deep joy when we push through the difficult time.

Try to not give in to frustrations. Allow yourself to feel them, and push forward. Very little of great meaning in life is easy.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Yes, pithy acronyms are often trite, yet they can be instructive as well, and are easy to remember. Lets examine a couple associated with the word  FEAR, as they pertain to writing.

Future Events Appearing Real
Forget Everything and Run

Both of these "interpretations"of FEAR inhibit writing. When people operate under the Future Events Appearing Real interpretation, they worry that their work will be rejected, that it will be ridiculed, that they will not have success  This obviously is a major barrier; it is very hard to engage in actions what we view as futile. When we focus on these pessimistic views of the future, we sadly shift toward the second interpretation: Forget (or an other more colorful, F Bomb sort of word :)) Everything And Run.

When the future appears bleak, we will often turn away from the events that we believe cause them. So, if writing will lead to rejection and pain, then why bother? So, you stop writing, push it out of your mind, and move on to other things. Of course, being the intellectual that you are, you will develop sophisticated rationalizations for why this course of action is best. And then, you suffer.

Conversely, FEAR can mean Face Everything And Reach. Staying in the moment, staying in the process, and accepting that there will be future triumphs AND setbacks is essential. One must keep a present day mindset- today is the only day we can write. It is the only day we can do anything.

So, pardon if this post was an exercise in triteness; perhaps it can be a bit trite yet also stimulate some thinking and self reflection.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"I Hate Writing"

I have heard these words many times: "I hate to write." It is usually said in a way that social scientists would understand as "essentialist." In other words,  it is so deep that it is probably in one's bones, nestled deep within some biological structures. Or, it is sociologically determined, I hate writing and I always will hate writing since that is the totality of my learning and experience- it cannot change.

But do you really hate to write so fundamentally, so essentially or are there things that you can do to increase your potential enjoyment? (or at least decrease the misery?) Is it writing you really hate, or is it something about your internal expedience that is triggered during the process of writing that can be found in other aspects of your life?

For example, the hate of writing sometimes comes from shame or a sense of not being good enough. Is this about writing, or is it about things you learned that influence other areas of your life as well?

You don't really hate writing- you hate things about writing, and what it triggers in you.

Yes, something has to change, but perhaps it is not as simple as putting down your pen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What holds you accountable?

What methods do you use to hold you accountable?  Do you have a set plan in place to keep you from falling off the writing wagon? If not, you may wish to explore some of the methods that have been discussed in this blog or elsewhere.

They key is to make sure that you have a system in place that does not allow you to rationalize not writing, and makes you accountable to others.

It needs to be something that kicks in quickly, within a day or two after you have fallen off the wagon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

If you had to, you could....

I am not a nice person. Well, sometimes I am a nice person, but I can be downright evil at times. This morning (a few minutes ago), I was speaking with an extremely talented scholar I am working with- she was feeling stuck. With only one page of an article to go, she was letting perfectionism creep into her writing. She begin to wordsmith every sentence (prior do writing the parts she needed to finish), and was driving herself crazy.

So, what did I do?

I told her that if she did not write that one page, I would send 20 dollars of mine to a hate group that both of us find truly discussting.

And I will do it.

And you know what?

I bet I won't have to.

Sometimes, avoiding really icky consequences such as this can be enough to help us get out of our own way and finish something. Think of it- if you had to write one page a day for the next month in order for a loved one of yours to not be harmed, would you do it? Of course you would.  You would stay focused, motivated, and would doggedly work to complete the task no matter what it took.

Accountability is a key to sustained motivation.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Five minute bursts

Ok, try this exercise. Write the title of an article that you are working on, or have been thinking of working on, on the top of a blank word processing document. Set a timer for five minutes, look at the title again, and write. Write without stopping, without thinking.

After the five minutes are over- look for one piece of data, a quote,  a citation, or an idea. Take five minutes to read it and look it over.

Now, set your timer again, and write for anther five minutes.

How much writing were you able to do? Amazing what can happen in a short period of time, no?

Try this every day for a week, and see what you are capable of with very little effort.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Much to be thankful for...

Reflecting on the day, I have much to be thankful for. First, my wife Jill has now been out of her wheelchair and walking for a year now- there could be no bigger gift.

Over the past year, I have begun to formally provide coaching on writing and publishing. I am so thankful to have had you in my life, those of you with whom I have had the pleasure of working. I have learned far more from all of you than you have from me.

Thanks to my own mentors who have taught me so much over the years and those who allowed me to work with before I started becoming intentional about all of this- you have made so much possible for me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Research agenda

Do you have a good research agenda statement, one that you can say (or send) that quickly tells the world about the work you do? It is important that you are able to clearly articulate your research agenda. If you do not, try to write a hundred word and a five hundred word version. If you can, see if you can even write a fifty word version- hard indeed!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Four Domains

I won't even apologize for not posting on the blog for some time (I guess I just did). Lets just have at the issue at hand.

I have been thinking of the areas in which we can consciously improve as authors of academic articles, and thought I would share my short conceptualization. There are four main domains, or key areas, which academics need in order to publish often.

1) Solid grammatical writing skills
2) Knowledge and ability to implement methods of writing productivity
3) Knowledge about journal articles and the processes of publication
4) An ability to manage and transcend the psychosocial "stuff" that gets in your way

That's about it. In which areas do you need to improve?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bonus writing

Want a tip to boost the number of pages you produce each week? Try "bonus writing." When you are done with what you are working on, when you feel like you have nothing left in the tank for a project, pick something else and write. It may be a new section of an article, a new article, a new chapter. There is something about writing when we think we are done that pushes us forward. It is often easier when we have less expectations and see it as "bonus." If we don't do much, we still did more than we had planned.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sorry readers, I have been writing!

Sorry for my lack of posts here; I have been making sure that I am attending to my own scholarship first! (trying to do as I say). 35,000 words into the new book on writing/publishing for international/ ESL scholars- it is going really well. This is also how I roll; I become somewhat obsessed with longer writing projects, and it is all I want to do. Go where the energy is, I tell others, so I am going with it.

Thanks to the couple of you who have emailed me with suggestions for the book- they have been super helpful. I think we have only bout 5-10 thousand words left on the first draft; my hope is to have a finished first draft done by December 1. I will be presenting at a conference in Thailand in the middle of December, and will spend a week or so with my coauthor (journalist and ESL teacher in Thailand) after that, and hopefully we can finish it up shortly after!

Will be blogging more soon; I promise.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What do English as Second Language Scholars Need?

As I mentioned briefly before, a colleague of mine and I, ESL teacher Greg Lamphear, are working on a book for English as Second Language scholars in the US and scholars around the world. It is geared toward those who wish to publish in English language journals. The book will basically have three sections: writing productivity, publishing and writing tips in general, and writing in English.

We are really excited about this project. So excited, we have written 30,000 words, or perhaps 75 percent of the book, in about six weeks. Of course, it so drafty that is shivers, and the organization is a mess.

We are at the point where we would love feedback from those of you who have ideas for us. What are your thoughts about the needs of  ESL scholars who wish to write and publish in English? We would also be interested in your thoughts about appropriate publishers.

I would be most thankful if you would email me your thoughts:

Think of this as your chance to have material included that would help our ESL audience in the US and internationally.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

And another thought...

Not only does it not always have to feel good, but it does not always have to be good. Sometimes just getting the work done is just enough, good, bad, or even purple!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

200 words now!

Well, if you have time to surf the web and read my blog, you have time to write. Writing first, everything else second.

Stop reading, write. See if you can get to 200 words on an old or new project, before you start the 1000 things you need to do today!

Monday, October 1, 2012


I have headache. I am not sure if I am getting sick, or if I just happen to have a small headache for some random reason. Its onset happened to coincide with an hour I set aside for writing.

So what did I do?

I wrote.

How did it feel?

During? Not very good. Tight, constrained, annoyed, yuk.

After? I feel good about myself for having done so, for having pushed through. I wrote about 500 words on the next book we are doing on writing and publishing, a book for English as second language and international scholars.

This is the most important work I do, for me, writing when it seems unlikely. It is the writing I do that makes me productive. It is easy when it is easy. Kind of like working out, or relationships, or life. It matters not when it flows, but how we do when things go against us.

Is it going to be great stuff? I doubt it, but I got it done, and always can edit it later, and met my goal regardless of how I felt.

It does not always feel good, and it does not have to.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An exercise to stimulate ideas about articles you may wish to write

Here is an exercise to stimulate your creative thinking about idea generation.

In a search engine (Why don't I just say Google?), type in the word "Journal" and then a key word or two that relate to one of your methodological or substantive areas of interest.

Then, look for three title of articles that sound interesting.

After, change the titles to fit your main areas of research and scholarship. After you have done that, ask yourself what article you would like written that is close to this title.

Change the title to match an article you wish was written.

That is an an article you may wish to write!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Part I: Must I Listen to "Them"?

So, you are getting feedback from your department members on how, where, and what you should publish. 

Should you listen to"them"?

This is a tough question, and one that I think I will explore in several posts.

The first thing I want to say is that I have seen many, many faculty become obsessed with such guidance. They seek to do the right thing, follow the wisdom of the department colleagues, and drive themselves crazy in the process. Why drive themselves crazy?

First, the feedback on where, when and how to publish is often conflicting. Faculty one, the chair of T and P, says one thing. Your department chair says something else. Your mentor something else.  Follow one set of feedback, and piss someone off! I have seen many new (and not so new) faculty totally hamstrung by these conflicting messages, so much so that they wind up writing or publishing nothing!

Second,  all of their feedback may be preventing you from becoming the scholar YOU wish to be. I am convinced that your best shot and success, in the fullest sense of the word, will come from you actualizing who you wish to be, not what others want for you. 

Yes, I know that this may be a controversial post, but perhaps it starts some dialogue and discussion.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Great Book

I just read Robert Boice's "Professor as Writers: A self-hep guide to productive writing." I have to admit, I am a bit embarrassed that I did not find it during past literature reviews for my own work. It is a 1990 book, and is a wonderful, systematic approach to writing productivity that is based-upon the author's (and other scholars) research. Readable, and outstanding in all ways. A bit dated in terms of technology, but an important book.

I have to admit it, I think in many ways it is better than my book, Practical Tips. Something to which to aspire! I think they actually complement it other well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Do you read enough? I mean, not those things that you have to read for your classes, but those things that make you say wow?

Not reading enough can be a impediment to productivity. Over time, not reading enough can lead us to feel that our work is dull, inspired, and disconnected from various discourses.

Remember, you can also read too much, and use reading as an excuse for not writing.

Balance. Balance.Balance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Google Docs: Now Google Drive

For those of you who use Google Docs, Google's collaborative work space, but who may not have used it in some time, it has changed. Google Drive has now replaced Google Docs- all your files have (or should have!!) been transferred automatically. While they are fairly similar, there are some organizational differences, so make sure to become familiar with it before you actually need to use it. The collaborative work tools appear to be the same, but I have not fully explored it yet. The biggest differences are in how files are arranged and organized. For a creature of habit like myself, this is going to take me a few days of adjustment.

For those of you who have not used such tools, take a look at my previously posts about Google Docs- they have changed the way I collaborate with others. I encourage your to explore how to use Google Drive with your collaborators.

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Exercise in Randomness

 Here is an exercise. Take your two most unrelated articles (in your mind) or papers, and try to think of an article that bridges the two. Is the bridge theory, method, "space," feel, perspective?

Try this a few times and see if you come up with something new. The life of a scholar is about finding new ways to view things that are often explored a great deal.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thinking in another language

It is amazing to me how when I speak Spanish, my whole worldview shifts. I am in Mexico collecting data for a project, and speaking in Spanish every day gives me writing a different "flavor." I am not sure how to describe it other than that.

When we move outside of our own linguistic comfort zone, or perhaps many comfort zones, we are afforded new ways of thinking- this stimulates creativity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer's Almost Over- Moving to 3 X a Week, and...

Well, with summer almost over (the quarter system, we are not normal :)), I will be moving toward writing from nearly day here to 3 days a week on this blog.

As sad as I am to see my unstructured time end, there is aways the excitement of new possibilities with the start of the school year.

Within the next couple of days, I will be writing to you about a new book I am working on. While the title is in the works, the book will be on tips for writing and publishing for non-English speaking scholars who wish to publish in English scholarly journals.  My coauthor is an ESL teacher and award wining journalist- I think we will be a good team.

I will be, over time, asking for some feedback and ideas on what to include.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How Much Time Do You Waste?

I am working with a truly talented scholar who has been working on finding consistency in her writing. Recently, we agreed that she should figure out how much time she spends on her cell phone, specifically during writing sessions.

And how much time did she waste in one day?

47 minutes.

How much time to you waste when you are supposed to be writing?

Text messages? Email? Cell phones? Internet?

What is more important to you, thriving as a scholar, or being "connected 24/7?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Start of the Semester (or Quarter)

One of the most "dangerous" times of the year is the start of the academic term. There is so much to think about, classes, service, committees, students, articles coming back from review, requests to review articles, emails from old colleagues, ect, ect. I get anxious just thinking about it!

Often, one of the first things that "goes" is our writing. As I have said before- "pay" yourself first.  Many of the things that we think we "have to do" are perhaps not as important as nurturing our creative selves, and exploring ideas through writing. I try to remind myself that writing makes me a better teacher, and it does.

Yes, have a plan for the term, but most importantly, write each day no matter what! When you look back, if you are writing, even if it feels scattered and unfocused, you will find feel a lot better about yourself for having done so. Having a lost term just feels icky.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Edit backwards

Here is a simple tip. When you do your last edit, that edit where you look for small errors that are hard to find, read your paper backward. That is, read each sentence normally, but starting at the end of your paper. This seems to tricks the brain into paying attention to each sentence, not the overall meaning of your work.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coming off two days off

A day off from writing, or two days off if you take weekends off, are a time for renewal. I have taken the last two days off, which is very rare for me. Today, I feel a sense of needing to write, but really do not know what I want to write about.

What do I do with my indecision? What do I do with this sense that I have nothing to say today, and that perhaps I should take another day off?

What do I do? I write. I thank my brain for its opinion (yes, I say this out loud), and get down to an article. I open one of my files with a very rough start to an article on the mission drift, international social work, and evidence based practice. It is a bit amorphous. I am not sure what I want to say.

Still, I quiet my brain, read the two pages I have so far, and write. I remind myself that writing is not what I do when I know what to so, but the method of learning what I want to say. It is a method of inquiry.

A page and a half later, I am still not clear where this is going, but am intrigued to find out!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Time to Write Now

Periodically, I encourage you to stop reading this blog and just write. Today, I have an exercise for you to do. Open the front page of the newspaper (or do so virtually), and can down the titles of the  main headlines. Ask yourself, how can my discipline inform these problems and issues? Spend a few minutes freewriting about this. After, create a few a title of an article you could write. Of course, you did not have to write this article; it is good however to start your day writing and thinking outside of the box. Now, go to one of your articles and see if you don't approach it more easily having been "warmed up."

Of course, save your ideas for future use, or see if you do want to write something based upon today's work.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Day Off....

No insights today- I am taking a day off from all writing (except for these few words). I needed to recharge my batteries.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

But I Don't Want To!

So, I don't want to write today. I do not want to work out today either, and would prefer to eat chocolate ice cream and sushi (separately, of course).

Throughout the ages philosophers have debated the merits of living a life based upon meaning verses pleasure. The hedonists verses the stoics, the epicureans verses the existentialists (I am speaking metaphorically here).

To me, the good life is about balance. Every day that I can create a balance between meaning and pleasure I think I am adding to the overall quality of my life.

So, what does this have to do with writing and publishing?

Well, neither is always pleasurable, but can lead to a strong sense of meaning. Of course, many of us experience great joy from writing as well, but this is not always the case. Try to remember the powerful effect that being creative and writing can have upon your sense of meaning; this may make it easier to set some time aside to write.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Make a Change Today

Sometimes, we think we are so lost that we need to make drastic changes in our lives in order for things to change. However, a lesson from systems theory is that small changes can have far reaching impacts.

Today, make one small change in how you approach writing. Think about all the posts you have read here, advice you have received or about the changes that you have wanted to make. Just make one, a small one, and feel good about it, darn it!!

Some suggestions? Sure.

Start your day with 5 minutes of writing, ever day (everyone has time for that!)
Every other time you want to send a text message, write for two minutes instead
Buy a notebook and write thoughts you have about your scholarship
Call an old mentor you have not spoken to in a while and talk to them
Find a new mentor or coach
Read more articles in your area

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It Seems to Be Rituals Week

It seems to be the week for me to focus on the topic of rituals for writers!

I conducting a workshop this week for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. If you do not know the Center's work, and are a new or aspiring professor, you really need to check out what they do! I will linking to a guest blog post by their CEO soon.

Coincidentally, a guest post I wrote a few weeks ago on the use of rituals in writing has come out today on Jennifer Blanchard's fine blog Procrastinating Writers. In addition to checking out my post (click on the link), take a look at the other ideas and resources that Jennifer provides.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Exercise for the Day

Ok, here is a brainstorming exercise for today. In Google Scholar, put in a random subject that does not apply to your work, or only tangentially so. Then, just based on the sound or word choices of a few titles, try to write a couple of titles on your area of interest. Mimic the style and tone, if you will, of the titles you found. This is a brainstorming exercise, designed to stimulate creativity, so do not judge what you are writing while you are writing.

Repeat this a couple of times, and see if you have not come up with a new article idea.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


What in the world does sushi have to do with writing and publication? Nothing, and everything!
Have you ever watched a skilled sushi chief work? Have you ever watched how detailed his/her work is, how precise? You may also have noticed that his/her work also appears effortless.
Repetition breeds skill and ease. So too with writing. Remember, you are not supposed to be a master the first time you try something- it takes years of effort for something to feel effortless, and in truth, writing does not feel effortless to anyone all the time.
Now, if getting an article published was as satisfying as sea urchin with quail egg- life would be grand!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

When you don't think it is there....

What do you do when you don't think there is anything there? When you have no ideas to write about, when nothing wants to come?

It would be glib to say "just write," but there are times when that just does not work. First, it happens to even the most productive writer, we are all entitled to a day off. I am not talking about what is labeled "writer's block," which is a more sustained, persistent constellation of psychosocial and behavioral issues ( and for sustained lapses from writing, seek outside assistance). I am referring to a day when you just have no ideas, and can't seem to engage any you had.

First, accept it and call it a day off.  Get away from the computer, and just let it go. Don't force it for a day or so, just give yourself that "writing holiday."

However, don't make it too long; more than a day or two often breaks momentum.

Stay engaged by reading. Focus on self care that gets your mind and body right (write :)).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Architecture Part II: The Structure Within the Structure

When I show those I work with how simple the architecture of an article can be, they almost always have the same reactions.

First, they are exalted- they are astonished that it can be so simple to create the general "working plan" of an article. They seem to find it especially hope inducing (strange word choice, no?) to see a blank page or a cacophony of rambling words quickly find a potential form.

Next, they write. They usually pick the easiest section in which to write, and then just go for it!

Then, the depression hits-"look at this rambling mess that I have! I will never be able to make sense of this, even with this structure."

Lesson- once you begin to write a section, you need a structure, or an a architecture to that section. This does not mean that you have to create a million sub headings, or that you must create this structure before you start to write (in fact, you should not do this, as this will usually lead to a lot of useless obsessing and "contemplation.")

Yet, once you have been working on a section, you need to think about how it fits together. What are the "take aways" you wish to give the reader? How should the section and its various components support the overall aims of the article?

One tool for helping you do this is to print out a couple of copies of the section, and literally cut and paste the various sentences and paragraphs. Rearrange them on a table, and see what fits and what does not. What is missing?

Regardless, try to work on the structure of your sections without compromising your writing! Go to another section, and make sure you get some writing done as well. In this sense, you are engaging in writing, THEN editing, not writing and editing. Always remember that writing and editing are two different functions. See post Write THEN edit 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is an Impact Factor?

Here is a website that does a good job of explaining what an impact factor is: What is an impact factor

To what degree you should pay attention to impact factors is explored in different posts, and depends upon your discipline, the type of university  at which you work (or wish to work), and the nature of your work.

Love them or hate them, publishing an article in a "high" (relative to your field) impact factor journal never hurts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Publish, Don't Perish: A Book!

Speaking of publishing and perishing....  Coincidental, yesterday a book I ordered arrived, Publish, Don't Perish: The Scholar's Guide to Academic Writing and Publishing, by Joseph M. Moxley. This is an older book, published in 1992. While it is dated around issues pertaining to technology (i.e. sending a self addressed stamped envelope with your paper submission), it is really a very good book. I am half way through the 150 plus page guide, and I am impressed. I am not sure how I missed this one previously.

A few of the sections that I really appreciate are the discussion of pre-writing preparations, and the use of freewriting as a tool. Both the rationale for the use of freewriting and its potential impacts are excellent.  He also provides some good hands on advice for how to use it to increase your productivity.

It is superior to our book on publishing articles in its exploration of actual rhetorical issues- the author is a professor of English, has studied the how his field can impact scholarly publishing, and it shows.

This book is well worth finding and reading- it is a recommended guide to those new to, or looking to jump start, scholarly productivity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Publish or Perish: A Really Good Blog

I have been remiss in not mentioning a great blog about publishing, Publish or Perish. Julie Kinn, is the coauthor, with yours truly. of Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles. Julie is a psychologist who brings a powerful understanding of the writing process to her blog. I highly recommend reading it; you will learn a lot- I know I do!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Morning Exercise: "In Conclusion"

Its Monday morning (Well, at least in the lovely Pacific Northwest of the United States!), and time to get the week started well.

What should you do? Clean the house? Wash the dog? Search Amazon for the cheapest price on your favorite cologne (ok, I busted myself!)?

How about a simple writing exercise, so no matter what, you can say you started your week off with some writing.

Pick an article that you want to write, or are writing but have not done a great deal on. Now, instead of working on the introduction, spend 15 minutes working on the conclusion. It helps if you have a journal in mind prior to working on this exercise, but it is not essential. If you get to 15 minutes and want to continue, do so.

Anyone care to share what it was like to approach writing in this way?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A few spare minutes

It is morning, and everyone is still asleep.  It is using moments like this for writing that make can make a huge difference in my productivity. I can surf the internet, fiddle around the house, lie in bed worrying about things. Or, I can take a few minutes and write, and feel good about having done so.

Which enhance my life? Who do I wish to be today?

I will write for a few minutes. Perhaps you can too.


I just read a few blog posts by a former professor that came across as pretty bitter. It stuck me how common her bitterness is, and how it must be hard to recognize in oneself.

If you start to detect such bitterness in yourself, perhaps it is time to check in with someone about it. We did not spend countless years in school and countless hours of hard work to be wind up miserable as academics. Intervene early so you can have a wonderful career; it is a shame to let the wounds we have accrued on path poison our love for what we do.

Therapists, friends, mentors, coaches, Rabbis, Imams, Priest or any trusted guide can be helpful. Allow someone in who will help you to free yourself of this powerful impediment.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Ways of Making Academic Articles Easier to Read- An Article Link

Here is a fascinating article that explores new conventions for making academic articles easier to read. It presents a good discussion of the architecture of articles, which I talked about recently.

New Ways of Making Academic Articles Easier to Read

Friday, August 17, 2012

Author Friendly Journals

Why do we submit to a particular journal? Sometimes it is the impact factor, the professional prestige, or the substantive area. Yet, what about these journals? Are all of them good places to which to send your work? Do all journals treat you the same? Do all editors and processes leave you feeling like a valuable partner in the process of publishing scholarship?

The obvious answer is no. Some articles remain in review for a year and receive nothing but a glib rejection note and thinly veiled contempt.

No wonder why some doctoral students and junior scholars wind up discouraged and depressed over the prospect of publishing, and why some senior faculty are jaded by about publication.

I am working on the concept of "author friendless" -the factors that go into making a journal appealing to authors other than the above mentioned areas. Here are some of the factors that I have come up with so far, in no particular order.

1) Review time
2) Responsiveness to author questions
3) Ease of submission
4) Editorial discretion over poor reviews
5) Editorial openness to alternative views
6) Editor's willingness to engage with authors
7) Clarity and accuracy of guidelines
8) Time to publication
9) Editor takes responsibility for mistakes (huge)

I would love to hear your thoughts about this concept, and any other possible criteria.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Architecture: Part 1

Each article has an architecture, a structure. It is important to develop your architecture as early as you can in the process of writing your article for several reasons. First, it will help you stay on track. Second, it is far easy to write a series of 4 page sections than a daunting 20 page article. Third,  it is easier to find collaborators if you have a clear idea of the building blocks of the article.

The most basic article architecture is: Introduction, literature review, methods, findings, implications, conclusion.

Non-empirical have slightly different structures, as the architecture depends upon the aims of your article. I will explore how to conceptualize the potential structures of non-empirical articles another time. For now, know that you must keep the structure as simple and tight as empirical articles, or you are more likely to get "lost" in the process of writing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Somebody Break it Down! E-how Advice on How to Write an Academic Article!

Here is an exercise now that you have been studying and practicing how to write academic articles. Read this article on Ehow, How to Write A Scholarly Article, and post an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses under the comment section for this post. This is a good exercise for helping you understand how much you have learned about the process of writing and publishing, how much you may still need to learn, and what you may be unclear about. Feel free to ask questions.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More on Being A Good Collaborator

A while ago, I listed a bunch of attributes that go into being a good collaborators, but I think that in some ways I missed the essence of good collaboration in my post. To be a good collaborator means to be invested in the success of others, and to view your own success as being connected to that of others. 

Academics often are solitary creatures, and in many ways, our education encourages us to compete against one another. Learning that we can go much farther by embracing interdependence rather than rugged individualism is an important lesson many of us need to learn.

Feedback and Honesty in Writing Groups

Let me honest- I hate polite writers groups. I really dislike the workshipping process where only constructive feedback is given. Frankly, I want to really the truth, II want to know when something thinks something is not working. I am a big boy, let me take care of my own ego! I know many others do not share my desire for brutal honestly, so I have learned to modify my feedback to the most strengths-based way of saying things.
I do believe, however, that if your ego can take it, ask your mentors or colleagues to be a bit more direct than they may be being. It will save you a lot of time trying to decipher when “I am not clear if this section is meeting the aims of your paper” really means “I have no idea what you are saying here.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

50 Word Day

And if you are really, really stuck, and have been for a while, please don't use my call for a 2000 word day as more potential fodder for beating yourself up. Sometimes, a 50 word goal is really what we should try for. 50 words, before feeding the dogs (well, maybe after that), checking email, looking at text, or the latest sales at _________ (fill in the blank).

Do not judge the words, just get them on paper. And then 50 more. In a few days, you have a page, and a page becomes a paper. One foot in front of the other; it takes time to recover from periods of fallow.

The 2000 Word Day

I want you to try to schedule a day when you have to write 2000 words. Of course, It would be best if you could do productive writing- an article, your dissertation, ect. However, if that is not possible, I want you to write ANY 2000 words (well, no  text messages or “beurocratic” emails.) Letters to old friends count, free writing, parts of articles, whatever. Push yourself to experience what a day of intensive writing feels like.

If you have written 2000 words before, than try 3,000 or 4,000 words. The point is to push you out of your comfort zone, and make yourself produce a great deal. If you do not think you can, ask yourself this: If you were told you would be given a million dollars if you completed the task, or that doing so would mean that a loved one would avoid some harm, would you be able to do it?

Of course you could and would; it is just a matter of doing so without accepting the not doing so as an option. Simple, but not by any means easy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rejection as a Challenge

If you submit articles for publication, they will be rejected. Notice I said that  they (your articles) will be rejected, not you. You are not your articles, even though when you receive a rejection email or letter you may have a hard time believing this.

One of the most valuable skills, or perhaps personal attributes, you can cultivate is to see rejections as challenges.  This will help you persevere.

When I receive a rejection letter (not a revise/resubmit), I give myself two weeks to get it back out the door. I try to absorb the suggestions for a few days, and then make changes prior to resubmitting. If I am too busy to make changes, I send the article out again with no changes. I know this goes against popular convention, but I believe that the review process is so idiosyncratic that suggestions I receive from one editor (or reviewers of that journal) may be diametrically opposed to feedback I will receive from another journal. The two week rules compels you to assess feedback, make quick changes,  and take another shot at it. Otherwise, the article may remain un-submitted for months at a time, the same amount of time it takes to get another review. The next journal just might love it. I had an article rejected four times, and an the fifth time, it was accepted with no revisions- that nearly never happens (at least not to me, I always have to make some changes)

Of course, if you decide after careful consideration of the original feedback that your article is flawed, you will need to do one of two things.

1) Fix it
2) Find someone else to do it.

This is the advantage of working with co-authors, and adding other authors at this stage of the process.

Whatever you decide, do not sit on articles for very long.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Traditional Verses Non-traditional Publication Venues and Modes

Instead of attempting to paraphrase a wonderful question from one of my readers, I thought I would quote it here and respond below.

"I..... am curious about your thoughts about public scholarship written for a nonacademic audience. For example, I write for a peer reviewed site called SoundingOut! that blends academic discourse and lay audiences. I have received more questions about this type of writing than my book chapters or upcoming article. Any suggestions about how I should blend this type of writing with my academic career?"

This is an important issue, and one with many potential responses. I think there are "old school" and "new school" responses  (well, an overgeneralization, but go with me).

Old school- respect the cannons of your discipline. For most, this means peer reviewed publications, books, or in some disciplines conference proceedings. 

New school- New forms of electronic media and public scholarship represent wildly exciting opportunities for hearing form voices that have been silenced. These are going to be the way scholarship is disseminated in the future; be a pioneer, and not a late adopter.

Now, how about a "marketing" perspective: publishing in alternative media as a public scholar can lead to considerable name recognition, or, if you publish controversial topics, notoriety.

Perhaps I think a balanced approach is in order. One of the key lessons of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is to pay attention to survival skills first. Scholarship that is currently accepted as the convention, at least in terms of the means and mode of publication, are going to more reliably lead to jobs and tenure and promotion. That said, public scholars can find themselves provided many opportunities to speak, to lecture, to consult, ect. I would say make sure you paying strong attention to publishing in more conventional medium and putting at least half of your writing and publishing efforts into these arenas, at least early in your career.

As I write this, I find myself wanting to chide myself for such a conventional response, but I think it is where i currently stand (as I write my blog post, of course :)). However, never let convention and survival stand in the way of your taking risks and thriving (there, that feels better!)

Would be glad to hear alternative perspectives and dissent.

Are You a Good Collaborator?

 If you can answer yes to most of these questions, than you are a most likely a good collaborator. If you cannot, perhaps this is something to work on. Or, you might decide that you need to "go it alone" more often that not. Not my personal favorite way of working, but we all have to be true to ourselves.

1) Do you do your work on time?
2) Do you set reasonable limits when others are late?
3) Do you believe that those who do most of the work should get authorship?
4) Do you enjoy helping others achieve their goals?
5) Are you able to be generous with others in terms of ideas you come up with?
6) Do you like working with others?
7) Are you able to compromise on the "big ideas" and go with the flow?
8) Are you able to not get your way at times?
9) Can you say "I am sorry"?
10) Do you understand that sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.

Can you think of other ways in which you are, or are not, a good collaborator?

Friday, August 10, 2012

No 5 Minute Fixes

It is never a good idea to break complex, highly personal human problems down to sound bites or acronyms. There is no such things as a simple, quick fix for problematic emotions or issues that stand in the way of your writing or publishing. I hope I never give the impression that any of the ideas or tips contained in this blog will somehow lead to miraculous transformations. Sometimes, there is hard work to be done.

Human growth and change are complex, and are far slower processes than we often wish them to be. Our stories are long, and our narratives that have led us to certain paths are not always easily shifted. Change, in a very real sense, is about rewriting these narratives, about recreating the self.

No exercise is going to change our narratives, but engaging in many, and slogging through the minefields of our own stuff, can lead to permanent change. Sometimes, it is also about getting out of our own way, putting our own stuff aside, and finding another way.

When To Start Publishing

Doc students often ask when they should start publishing. One school of thought is to wait until their dissertations are finished. According to this logic the dissertation should hold the totality of the doctoral candidate's focus; anything that gets in the way of this focus is seen as problematic.

I don't agree with this for most people (of course, there are always exceptions) for a few reasons.

1. Writing begets more writing. Using article writing as a warm up is a great way to "enter" your dissertation. The more consistently you write, the easier it is to be productive.

2. When else are you going to learn how to write articles but now?

3. You can bet that you will be competing for faculty positions with other doctoral students with publications. I have served on more than my share of search committees- publications are a key to rising to the top of some very large stacks of applications.

4. Do you really want to start a tenure track position without articles in review and a couple nearly done? I have seen that the undoing of many a new assistant professor.

If you are a doc student, pick an article to write today. Choose a journal. Make it a goal to have it done within three months. If the average article is about 20 pages, with references, than that means less than a quarter a page, or about 70 words, a day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cutting My Dog's Liver for Breakfast!?!

I had to go to urgent care a couple of days ago- I cut my hand on a knife. What I did was slice my hand cutting liver for my dogs for their breakfast. What I told the nurse, however, was that I hurt myself cutting my dog's liver for breakfast!

Watch dangling modifiers and poor preposition use; they can lead to some real strange misunderstandings!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Drop and give me 100!

Last time I asked you to drop and give me 50 (words).
Now, I want 100. Don’t do anything until you have written 100 words on an article you plan on submitting.

Where Will Writing Take You?

I am fascinated by the possibilities of writing. Not only what my writing might become, but where writing has, and may yet take me. In a very real sense, my writing has taken me to three continents, has afforded me a good position and a good living, and opportunities that I never imagined. Writing has become the center of my creative life, a source of great joy, and a method of learning.

Where might writing take you? If you really, really kicked it into gear, and took your writing and publishing agenda and practice to a different level, what might the possibilities be for you?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Find a New Journal

Every once in a while, I like to do google searches looking for new journals. I will usually type in “new journal” and  then the year, or even the following year, and then a key word or two. If you have not searched for journals often, you won't need to look for new journals, as many will be new to you!

See if you can find a journal you have not seen before, and look through its author’s guidelines. See i this gives you any ideas. Look through the tiles of a few issues of the journal, and see if you see something interesting.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Directory of Open Access Journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals is a wonderful database that contains hundreds of online journals.

On the homepage, you can search the database by subject (see the browse tab on the right hand tool bar), or you can search using the search journals function (like a search engine). A link is listed to each journal, along with important information about the scope of the journal, the language it is published in, and the year it started. It also lists if there is a publication fee- a disturbing trend (but still not too common).

In a subsequent post, I will explore the pros and cons of online journals, and if they are good venues for you to publish your work. For now, suffice to say that they present some good opportunities- just make sure you don't publish all your work in online journals if you are on the tenure track. An overgeneralization for sure, but more on this another time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Academic Publishing on Wikepedia, Please Help It!

Feeling like some low stakes writing to keep you in the game? How about improving the Wikepedia on Academic Publishing. As the wiki itself says, it has multiple problems, and is badly in need of citations and updates. That said, there is some decent information and some good references.

So, somebody take the challenge and improve it for the good of the scholarly community!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Spot of Feedback

Sometimes, specific feedback we get about an article we are working on or have submitted my not be very good (the feedback, not the work!). However, I have found that where (the paragraph, sentence or section) the feedback occurs is nearly always telling. In other words, I have not always had the problems with my work diagnosed accurately, but I usually find a problem occurring at the spot of where the problem was identified. Pay special attention the location where you get feedback, and you may find your own solutions.

Letter to the editor

Have you ever read something in a journal that struck a nerve? Something that moved you, or bothered you?  How about writing a letter to the editor? This is a powerful way of making a contribution to a journal, and is a relatively easy way for your writing to appear in a journal that may be very competitive. Of course, letters to the editor are not peer reviewed, and will not "count" the same way a peer reviewed article does, but nor will it take the same amount of effort.

If you have not published much, or perhaps have not published much this year, try a quick, 300 word letter to the editor for one of your favorite journals.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Beginning of the End of Summer- Time to Think About Goals

As the new new academic year is soon upon us, it is time to makes certain we have our writing goals established for the coming academic year.
Here are a few questions to help you work toward working on or evaluating your writing goals.
  1. What new scholarship do you want to produce and publish this year?
  2. What obstacles might you face that could get in your way?
  3. What new skills do you wish to develop that will facilitate your writing goals?
  4. What methods will you use to achieve this goals?
  5. If you dared to “dream big,” how would your goals look different?
Don’t just think about these question and have a plan in your head. Do some free writing, and then commit your goals to a written plan. Share you plan with others to increase your sense of accountability.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Should should should

We hear a great many "you shoulds" when we are learning a new skill, or trying to improve an old one.  How much "should" we listen to these "shoulds"? What do we do if somehow something does not "resonate" with us?

This is a tough one. One one hand, we don't know what we don't know. We seek advice, in this case about writing and publishing, because we want to be more successful at each. On the other hand, there are times when we know that a specific piece of advice just does not fit with who we are, and how we work.

To me, it is about balancing trying something new with honoring what we know about ourselves. Some   people are very resistant, for example, to the notion that daily writing is essential. They assert that they really need large blocks of time to write, and that small blocks of time each day would not work for them, or is not appropriate for the type of work they do.

To this I ask- what would be the cost to try? What would you lose if you tried this method (or most other suggestions) for a couple of weeks?

Try new behaviors when it comes to your writing and publishing practices- most will not hurt you. If nothing else, by learning what does not work for you, you may discover a new method that does.

Video on Publishing From A Publisher's Perspective

Here is a pretty good video from Francis & Taylor, a large publisher of academic journals.  It explores the basics of the peer-review process from a publisher's perspective. The "10 common reasons" why papers are rejected are instructive. Mostly for new scholars, but good food for thought for all.

Publishing in Academic Journal Video

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Select Two Backup Journals Prior to Submitting

I always try to have two back up journals selected prior to submitting my work to a journal. 


First, in case my review is taking too long, or the editor is non-responsive to my queries, I can submit to another journal immediately (after I send a note, of course, withdrawing the article from review). Second, if I get reviews back that are negative, not helpful, or rejections, I have two places in mind already where I can send them to. Not having these in mind can slow you down. Third, by having to select two additional journals, it forces you to assess the nature of these journals for subsequent publications. This can also stimulate new ideas for articles and increase your professional knowledge.

Self-Defeating Thinking

Learning to be more productive as a scholar goes well beyond learning the ins and outs of publishing. Often, various psychosocial factors can help or inhibit our ability to thrive. Self-defeating thinking is a particularly pernicious phenomenon that demands some attention here.

In a later, more expansive post, I will explore in more detail some of the theory behind cognitive therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and how they can help you move toward greater productivity. For now, I want you to begin to explore your self-defeating thinking. Start to pay attention to the messages you tell yourself that get in your way. Perhaps a few of these sounds familiar.

"I could never_________"

"_______ is just too hard."

" I am not smart enough to_________"

"My writing is not good enough to______"

You may find many others as you begin to listen to the chatter that runs through your brain as you attempt to engage in writing tasks.

However, prior to being explored, self-defeating thinking may not really be "consciousness" or more accurately, rests just outside of your awareness. Over time, the more you pay attention to these messages, false attributions, and core beliefs, the easier they are to challenge.

You can explore and begin to alter them yourself, or with a trusted mentor, colleague, or if they are really problematic, professional coach or therapist. What is essential is that you do not let these habituated, self-downing patterns of thinking interfere with your writing and publishing. If they go unexplored they can interfere with your entire career.

You own it to yourself to deal with your self-defeating thinking now, not ten years from now. Think how much more productive your career can be if you do!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Articles or books?

Often, new faculty wonder if they should try to publish a book or try to publish articles. What should one do? First, the most important consideration is the convention in your field. While norms in your department should also be strongly considered, sometimes faculty composition changes over time, so the norms in your field are key.

That said, all things being equal, go with the articles, especially early on. Why? Articles average 20 pages in length, while a book is usually 200-400 pages. Perhaps this is an overly simplistic way of thinking about it, but if you can write five articles and send them to journals in the same amount of time that you write a book, you odds of getting some of those articles published far out way the publication of your book. And, in most fields, five articles in solid peer-reviewed journals "count" more than a book in nearly all circumstances.

In some fields, one article in a good journal actually counts more than a whole book. This is not true for the humanities, where books are valued a great deal. Still, putting your eggs in one basket with a book can be a very risky proposition.

Read Abstracts!

A great way to come up with article ideas is to read abstracts in related areas. Abstracts are easy to find using Google Scholar. Place your key words into the Google Scholar search box, and then click on the article title after the cited articles appear- this will usually take you to the abstract.
Read five abstracts, and then try to write a few article titles. Look at the over the next few days, and see if one sticks.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More Than One Areas of "Expertise"

Alissa asked me to explore the issues pertaining to having more than one area of expertise, specifically within the same discipline.

While I always have been envious of those who have a very specific (narrow sounds pejorative) area of expertise, many of us have multiple interests. It is naturally for many of us to be curious about multiple topics, theoretical lenses, ect. While on one hand having a diversity of interest can be viewed as being expansive in your thinking and being able to apply scholarly analysis to more than one issue, there are several concerns with being spread thin that can impact us while on the job market and at others stages of our careers. This may even be true if your interests are in the same field.

First, tenure and promotion committees want to see a focused area of research and scholarship. Having too many interests makes it difficult to show expertise in more than one area. I have heard senior scholars over the years lament about a young scholar not having enough "focus."

Second, and related to the first issue, if you have more than one area of expertise, you have to prove that you are an expert in more than one area. This means that you are going to have to publish more than someone who has a more focused, singular topic. If you go up for tenure and/or promotion with three areas (which I did when I went up for promotion to Full Professor, so much for making things easy on myself), then you have even more "expertise" to demonstrate.

If you have multiple areas, you want be able to is be able to tell the "story" about how each of your areas are related. For instance, I can demonstrate an overlap between my interests in masculinities and transnational issues with my publishing about undocumented immigrant men. Look for cross over areas and make these centerpieces of your publication agenda.

If you have multiple areas of interest, you really need to publish in all areas or publish across areas. If you are not yet so prolific, you may want to hold off on publishing in some ancillary areas until you have firmly established a publication record in one area. This is not always easy to do, and at times feels less than satisfying. Look for connections and crossovers. If you cannot find them, talk to your mentor about it.

Again, the amount you have to publish in a given area is predicated on the type of university you wish to work at, or do work at. Also, if you have diverse areas that can demonstrate your ability to teach across the curriculum, this can be very valuable at universities that value teaching at great deal.

I am curious- does anyone have examples of crossover publications that bridge more than one area of their research and scholarly interests? If so, do post a comment here.

Drop and Give Me 50!

If a drill Sargent can compel you to drop and give him (or her) 50 push ups, I can do the same with writing.

50 words, right now, on an article you have been working on, or an article you have had in mind. Don't come back here or go on to other areas of your life until you do so!

If you dare, post your 50 words, or at least if you took the challenge!

A Brief Post About "Brief Notes"

Do a web search for brief notes, short articles, and commentaries for journals in your discipline and related fields. Many of these sections of journals are peer-reviewed.

You may have to dig a bit to find them.

Here is one example from the journal International Social Work. You will notice it is in the "Manuscript Submission" section under "Article Types." For this journal, brief notes are up to 2000 words long.

How long would it take you to write a brief note about an "unresolved problem" (one of the areas of interest noted under this  guidance) in your field?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Does My Publication Count?

Regina, a commenter on this blog, asked if her publication would count if it is in outside the fields to which she may be applying for positions. She identifies as an interdisciplinary scholar with varied interests.

So, does this peer-reviewed article "count" and "matter" to prospective employers? The short answer is, yes, it counts, but not as much as a more focused article in the disciplines to which she is applying.

It counts in that it shows her prospective employers that she has the skills and experience of publishing  in peer-reviewed journals- that helps them be more confident that she will be able to do so again.  This is huge, as there is nothing worse than hiring a faculty member who just can't publish- it creates heartache for all (unless, it is at a teaching college where publications are not important). 

However, it does not show subject matter expertise, which is something that will be important to do. Regina might wish to try to publish an article, since she is a interdisciplinary scholar, that bridges the two disciplines in which she will seek positions.

Of course, so much depends on the specific positions for which she is applying, the type of university (teaching verses research focus), and the nature of the units to which she is applying (i.e. are they going to value her eclectic interests).

Those with eclectic, interdisciplinary interests (as I am, with interests in masculinities, poetry as qualitative research, immigration, globalization, ect.), have to be very intentional about how they plan and execute their careers, and must have a great deal of mentorship and guidance. Without this, it is easy to fall between the cracks of ridged disciplinary boundaries in the world of academic hiring, and then tenure and promoting. Trying to work in many areas of interest at times leads to concerns with establishing a clear publication trajectory (and this is important at many universities).

Friday, July 27, 2012

From Free Writing to Writing That "Counts"

In a comment earlier in the week, Amy Fredrick made the following post:

"I've read here on your blog as well as other dissertation writing books about the importance of free writing or structured free writing every day to get yourself "jumpstarted" into writing. I have a couple questions about this strategy. I presume that free writing is something I should do in the morning or at the beginning of my writing session? Should I do it paper/pencil or on my laptop? The old fashioned way seems to facilitate free-er writing for me, but then I don't know what to do next with the paper? Do I look for nuggets in my writing that could become something in my dissertation and type them in my document somewhere? Or do I just chalk up the experience to a warm-up exercise and don't ever go back to it? Also, a related question, if I start my writing by doing a 15 minute free write, what do I do next? Back to agonizing drafting?? Thanks for any ideas"

This is a great set of questions and issues which warrants some exploration. First,  free writing is not obligatory-it is merely a tool. As with all tools, if it does not seem to be working for you after you try it out for a while, stop using it. Also, if you are able to enter the "important" writing (in this case a dissertation), or what is often called "high stakes writing," than by all means, go with that. Do not feel obliged to jumpstart a process that does that not need  jumpstating.

Now, as far as hand writing verses typing, it really is personal preference. Pay attention to what different "modes" and styles of writing do for you. Now, perhaps the most important question- what do you do with the free writing? How do you move from the low stakes to the high stakes writing?  

I have a few suggestions here. First, There is no clear obligation to "do" anything with it. If it is helping you develop good consistency in writing, that might be enough. Second, if you are finding that you are writing a great deal that seems to be going nowhere, then try writing for only five minutes. Third, you may want your free writing to be a bit less" free." Free writing that focuses on specific questions or issues related to what we are writing can at times be more valuable than "letting it all hang out."  If your free writing is a bit more focused, you may be able to find some hidden gems more easily.  At the top of the page, ask your yourself a question that you want answered, and then start your free writing. Fourth, depending upon what you are trying section of your dissertation you are working on, or what you are trying to "discover," you may find that some mind mapping exercises maybe more valuable than free writing. Mind mapping, which I will explore soon, help you draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Lastly, if you do have a great deal of free writing that you are not sure what do to with, take a look at it AFTER a writing session and see what you have. This may take away some of the pressure to have to use it for writing. At times, separating other tasks from a "writing session" allows us to be productive while decreasing some pressure.

I hope this helps, or at least provides some ideas to try out.

The Power of Generosity

How do you build connections with other scholars? There are many ideas, but how about a simple one: be generous. Include others on your articles. Be of service to people you respect. Give away ideas from your brainstorming that you don’t want to use (and may not use for some time). It will be reciprocated, not always by the recipient of the generosity, but it will happen. Not only help those with more experience, but help those with less as well.

Does this mean you should continue to give to people who take advantage of your generous spirit?  Does this does not mean you should work on articles without authorship for ungrateful senior scholar/deities who provide you little guidance and mentorship? No, that is not being generous, that is allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.


Celebrate the completion of an article, the acceptance of an article, and the publication of an article! I am not suggesting that you fly to Tahiti every time you finish a writing task (although, looking at this photo, how nice would that be!), but it is important to celebrate your milestones, achievement, or even process goals. Celebrating your achievements or efforts is not only good for the spirits, and allows us to savor the fruits of our labors, but also reinforces our behavior, making it more likely for it to continue. Perhaps you have had a hard time writing each day. If that is the case, do a small, nice thing for yourself if you have been consistent for a while.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

There Is No Such Thing as Writer's Block

What is the Bigfoot? What is the Chupacabra? Do these exist? Many people have seen them throughout the years, and swore to the validity of their experiences. Of course, they experience something, but what they are experiencing may be something other than what they appear to be, and what people are experiencing probably vary widely in what they really are.

Ok, this is not a good metaphor, perhaps, but I would argue that what we call writer's block is no more real than any of these two mythical creatures. Of course "something" is there, something that prevents people from writing. However, I believe that writers block is probably really an easy catch word for a variety of biological, psychological, and social phenomenon that we lump together. The consequences of doing this area great- if you do not diagnose the actual nature of what keep you from writing, are not likely to find a good solution.

Here are a few of the possible phenomena that I have seen subsumed under the term writers block:

Skill deficits
Poor writing habits
Environmental issues (i.e. a bad chair, too much noise)
A history of being judged for writing issues
Lack of good mentorship
And many more...

Your job is to understand the actual nature of the barriers that get in your way. To adopt a highly dubious social construction such as writer's block will keep you from making the changes you actually need to make to further your writing and publishing agenda.

This will not be the last time these issues are addressed.

Stopping for the Perfect Word

A recent comment on my blog asked if it was such an awful thing to stop writing and search for the perfect word. Perhaps she was responding to my tongue in check post suggesting that editing, or other forms of stopping while in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, were akin to a horrible monster that attacks in the night! :)

OK, it is not that bad, but I do think it is problematic, as it breaks the flow of writing. I am not suggesting that you live with words that don't work for you, but that you allow yourself to "go where the energy is" and complete your entire train of thought before you wordsmith. Words to paper is the name of the game, allowing yourself to stay "in the zone" when you are in it is key to good and productive writing.

While I cannot prove it from a physiological standpoint, I do believe that we are using different parts of the brain, or at least different modes of thinking, when we are "just writing" verses when we are editing or wordsmithing. From working with people over the years, many have reported that when they do let go of the wordsmithing or editing while they are writing, they are able to get their ideas on page far easier, and move forward with their work more quickly.

Once you have finished writing, then go back an wordsmith. If you are afraid that you will somehow forget the horrible, awful offending words, simply mark them using the bold key or highlighting function, and continue to move on.

When you are done writing (meaning, spent, tired, over it), then go back and edit. Take out that thesaurus  (how old school) and play with the offending words for a few minutes. Now find the best word. Now work on your sentences. Poof- you now have a lot of writing AND it meets your exacting standards!

Try it for a few weeks; what do you have to lose? If it works, then you have a new tool. If it did not work, you at least committed to writing more and experimenting with writing; that alone should keep you on a good writing trajectory. Alas, go back to your old ways if they work for you.

It is absolutely true that any of the "rules" or guidance that I provide here are not written in stone, and are merely suggestions. I do think this one might hold true for most people, although  perhaps not all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Importance of........(a short article idea generation exercise)

Fill in the blanks....

The importance of _______________ (fill in with a key concept for your work or discipline, or an idea you are interested in exploring) to ______________(fill in with a discipline that is related, but very distinct from yours).

Did you come up with anything? Try it five times and see if you might have an article idea to explore. Don't be stuck on what you write- it is merely a prompt to generate ideas. If something else comes to mind, write it down!

You can also change the word "importance to "implications"- that helps generate ideas as well.


Forget reading this blog for the moment. Forget any blog or news source for now. Forget Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging.

Close your browser. Turn off your cell. Breath deep. Write. Perhaps the most useful tip I have for you, today or any other day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Comments and Questions Welcome!

I just wanted to invite readers to post comments or questions. I am very open to writing posts in response to questions that people have, and most certainly would love to hear responses.

So, throw out an issues I may not have touched upon, and I will try my best to post about it ASAP.

The Tanka as Article

Remember my post about the 100 word essay? By writing the "totality" of your article in 100 words, you were forced to think about the essence of what you wanted to say. I also suggested that it was a great tool for jump-starting stalled writing.

Now, try an even more compressed form- the Tanka. The Tanka the longer form from where the Haiku originated. It is a poem with 5 lines consisting of a predetermined number of syllables:   5-7-5-7-7 (well, Onji in Japanese, but this is the English form).

Try writing your "article" in this format. Try writing a couple of ideas for articles in this format- see if your creativity is not sparked. Use it as an outline or abstract. Play.