Featured Post

Lilt: a theory of melody

A melody has to catch the ear. A lilt is an up and down movement that has to be asymmetrical or surprising in some way. It can go up, and ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writing Workshop

I am doing a writing workshop for students in our doctoral program in a few weeks. The problem I'm having now is that I know too much and it is going to be hard to remain finite, since the workshop is only about an hour. When I gave such workshops in the past, it was before I began SMT, so it was much easier.

Here is a possible outline:

The basics are fundamental. What people do wrong in the dissertation is in making mistakes they should have learned to avoid in High School or the early part of college.

Management of time:
You will get it done if you have regular time to write. Your "prime time" (Tanya).

Management of space: Combine time with space for the double whammy. As Thomas writes:
I tell researchers to master the time and space of their writing. I tell them to think of the text they are writing as an object with 40 parts distributed across 8 five-paragraph sections. This is the space in which they work, and it is, importantly, an orderly space in which 40 discrete claims can be supported.


Management of tasks: break down a larger task into smaller components.

Model article / dissertation chapter. Find compelling models and follow them.

Avoid the "data dump." You are communicating a message, not proving that you know something.

7 comments:

Tanya Golash-Boza said...

I am sure it will be great. One thing that struck me recently is that most academics don't think of themselves as writers. This conceptual shift has been great for me. I wonder, however, if this applies to lit profs. Do lit profs have trouble seeing themselves as writers?

Jonathan said...

We do see ourselves more as writers than the sociologists do, I think. But not completely and not the same way as fiction writers might.

Tanya Golash-Boza said...

I look forward to hearing how this goes. I think that some of the things you have to say about writing can come as a surprise to aspiring academics who often learn to mystify the whole writing process.

Jonathan said...

Yes, my aim is to demystify it.

Maritza said...

I'm interested in your thoughts on task management for writing, it's definitely one of my weaknesses. I've identified my prime time and I know where to go when I want to write. But when I sit down to a task like "Revise the intro," I end up reading blogs about writing instead of revising my intro.

Jonathan said...

I would use a pomodoro timer and simply not be on the internet during those 25 minutes. Disconnect your airport or your modem or whatever your internet connection is. An introduction might be 3 paragraphs. You could revise it in 3 25 minute session, with 25 minutes for each paragraph.

profacero said...

The 40 is a great idea.