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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Basics

If you are new to this blog let me review some basics:

(1) The blog is about how to get your scholarly writing done. The key here is to write on a regular schedule, three or four times a week for 1-3 hours, writing from 300-700 words each day. I set weekly goals, using the private writing group, along with short term goals (the particular article or chapter I'm working on), and long term goals: the particular book-length project I'm working on.

(2) The larger concept is the development of the scholarly base, the large percentage of the work that is not visible in the writing. (Hemingway's "iceberg" theory.) A scholar needs to develop a long-term agenda, a sense of what he or she wants to accomplish. The agenda goes beyond any one article or book.

(3) No particular intelligence is required to have good writing habits. It is more important to work smart than to be smart. The scholarly base, by the same token, is an infinitely expandable reservoir of knowledge and expertise. Once you are smart enough to actually be in the field (the "threshold theory"), then you only have to worry about managing your resources.

(4) While I often go off on metaphorical tangents, I like to return, again and again, to basic principles. The same things that make good coherent writing for a freshman in college (or in high school) are the things you need to know as a scholar. Failure often occurs at the bottom, not at the top. In other words, the writer is failing to apply concepts he or she should have known even before college.

2 comments:

matt said...

The idea of the scholarly base makes more and more sense the deeper I get into the profession.

As I work now on my dissertation, obviously the biggest project I've ever undertaken in terms of scope, I'm smacked in the head on a daily basis by my need to read this or that book just so I can write a single paragraph, or clarify a single idea.

Hemingway's whole "iceberg theory" is a great analogy because all that reading and all that knowledge is under the surface, true, but it's holding up that proportionally small bit of writing that people will read.

Jonathan said...

It makes more and more sense to me too.

It can seem unfair to be judged by a short piece of writing that can not possibly represent all you know. I have to believe that the depth of the scholarly base will somehow show through.