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