Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Writing Advice from Around the Web

Fellow writers of all stripes and varietals! Come get your free interwebs writing advice!

As the summer slams to a close many of us are either firing on all cylinders or (more likely) wishing we could find the energy for that final sprint...and probably got a little behind in the race. Remember guys, it's not the speed that counts, but the distance traveled (and also the speed...and the distance...and I'm so done with this dumb metaphor).

I recently stumbled across How I Wrote 4000 Words in A Year from Daily Beast writer Jaime Todd Rubin. He has some great ideas. In particular,

"Focus on content, not word count. What matters to me most is that I write every day, not how much I write. There have been a few days where I’ve written only one or two paragraphs. Quantity will take care of itself as the streak builds.

"Be flexible. Learn to write anywhere and in small scraps of time. If you don’t think it is possible, give it a try—you may surprise yourself. Don’t worry so much about when to write each day. Eventually, you’ll find a comfort zone."

A lot of academic writing advice hammers home the basic principle of coming up with a regular writing practice. Do you jog every day or every other day? Approach writing like that. The best argument for this approach is laid out in Ryan Cordell's blog for the Chronicle, Writing 20 Minutes Every. Single. Day. I love the concept. But it is surprising tricky to put into practice, especially if you're comfortable with the binge writing technique we all developed in college and perfected in grad school.

Furthermore, if you have any type of perfectionist bone in your body, you don't want to start writing until you have it all figured out -- or something like that. But notice that tricky word "start"? The principle here is that writing shouldn't stop or start, but should just be part of our daily routines. This is can seem especially challenging in a discipline, like History, that requires collecting and working through our research -- oh wait, that's practically every writing-based academic discipline. If we think about ourselves as writers and approach our days in that way (shower, coffee, prose) then we'll be able to more seamless move between those research parts and that horrible scary time when we have to Start.

There's a powerful desire many academics have to work everything out before we start writing, but that's a false premise. In what is probably my favorite piece of writing advice (and academic philosophy) ever, Lynn Hunt reminds us that writing IS working it out. In this essay from AHA Perspectives Magazine she explains How Writing Leads to Thinking.

Well, after all of this good writing advice I think I should go for a jog.

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