Finding inspiration for academic writing

For anyone pursuing a scholarly career – whether as a student researcher or faculty member – it is always a challenge to develop a consistent and productive writing practice. Even though we may start out the academic year with good intentions, life sometimes just gets in the way, and completion of writing projects gets delayed by all those other items on our to-do lists. Still, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found. In this blog post, I provide a few ideas for getting inspired to pick up those lapsed writing projects and get started…

Join an event: AcWriMo

You may have heard that November is “Academic writing month”; and perhaps your institution has hosted some write-ins.  Academic Writing Month (“AcWriMo” for short). has been going for 5 years, and was established by Charlotte Frost. You can learn more about the history of AcWriMo at the website and blog, PhD2Published .The goal of AcWriMo is to encourage and support more writing, and you will find out about how to get involved here.

Visit a blog or website that supports writing

Of course if you missed getting started this November, you still have time to take advantage of some of the resources and support for writing found elsewhere, including:

Sage’s Methodspace 

Thesis Whisperer 

Enhancing postgraduate environments 

Doctoral writing SIG 

Students working on completion of graduate degrees and their advisers will find lots of useful resources and ideas at any of these sites, and you will find some short videos on the research journey at Enhancing postgraduate environments. You’ll find some useful tools to help with reading, writing and developing an argument here.

For those pursuing a scholarly career, writing is but one part of the work entailed. At Tomorrow’s Professor you can look at academic work more broadly, and find resources to do with job searches, teaching, and research.

Try free-writing

If your writing has been hijacked by a host of other things on your to-do list, it may be helpful to turn off your email, and free write for five minutes. Once you’ve done that, you can note this accomplishment in a writing log. Tomorrow, aim for six minutes. Keep going! If you do this five days a week for a month, by the end of the month, you will be writing for 25 minutes a day; and you’ll have developed a writing habit.

Read about writing

 

If you feel the need to read about writing (always a fun procrastinatory activity!), try any of these articles about conducting literature reviews and writing:

Badley, G. F. Post-academic writing: Human writing for human readers. (Forthcoming) Qualitative Inquiry, Published online November 8, 2017, doi:10.1177/1077800417736334

Caulley, D. N. (2008). Making qualitative research reports less boring: The techniques of writing creative nonfiction. Qualitative Inquiry, 14(3), 424-449. doi:10.1177/1077800407311961

Wolgemuth, J. R., Hicks, T., & Agosto, V. (2017). Unpacking assumptions in research synthesis: A critical construct synthesis approach. Educational Researcher, 46(3), 131-139. doi:10.3102/0013189X17703946

Of course, reading about writing is not the same as writing, so don’t forget to write about what you learned from the articles you read in your writing journal.

Try a new tool

Or perhaps a new app would inspire you to write, and keep writing. For a comparative review of a range of apps, see HERE.

Do something different

Sometimes I’ve found that no amount of thinking about writing inspires me to start writing after a lapse. At these times, I’ve found that the key to getting started lies in doing something completely different. This could be taking a walk, cooking, gardening, listening to music, or even taking a nap. Taking breaks provides the space for my ideas to flow, and makes it easier to start again. What about you? What strategies do you use to kick-start your writing?

 

Kathy Roulston 

 

 

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