Motivation and Encouragement for Dissertation Writers Across Disciplines

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

TD:D Blog Carnival: Volume 5, Edition 1

In online resources, TD:D Blog Carnival on November 11, 2010 at 5:30 am

Welcome to another edition of the TD:D Blog Carnival!

Thanks to Tim for a great guest review last week!  Make sure to check out his website in addition to the great links below.

Enjoy this week’s posts and make sure to check back next week for another edition.

How-Tos

How to Get Past the NaNoWriMo Danger Point and Finish Your Novel by Hillary Rettig

Although this post is focused on helping writers get past the “Week Two Doldrums” that occur when writing a novel in a month’s time, the five suggestions Rettig offers are also highly applicable for dissertation writers experiencing a slump.

How to Harness the Power of Momentum by Katie Tallo

“It can carry you like a strong current carries a fallen leaf. It can ground you like an early morning walk through the woods. It can move you like wind moves a cloud across the summer sky. It can ignite your spirit and make you feel like you can do anything.  It is momentum – that invisible, universal force that can saturate your every choice, your every step, your every breath, your every moment of resolve with vibrant, joyful energy. Momentum can surge you forward and it can pull you under. It goes with your flow, follows your lead and enhances your trajectory.”

How to Put Yourself Into an Effortless Writing Zone by James Chartrand

“Writing can be a struggle. But for most writers, the writing isn’t the hard part. Come on, think about it. You don’t struggle (too much) over how to spell words or use proper grammar. You know how to put a reasonable piece of content together. It might need to sit overnight for that final polish, but you aren’t a beginner learning the basics anymore. The killer is starting.”

The Writing Life

Wake Up! 7 Simple Ways to Energize Your Writing Powers by Dean Rieck

“Do you sometimes feel like you’re in a rut with writing? We all do from time to time. It comes from getting too comfortable with the way we do things. We fall into familiar patterns and it puts us to sleep. But waking yourself up isn’t as hard as you might think.”

The Beauty of Paper by Jennie Nash

“This morning I printed out 60 pages of my new novel to read for the first time on paper. I sharpened a pencil, cleared some space at the kitchen table, made a cup of tea, sat down, and read what I have so far.  Why today? I’m not sure. It just felt right.  And what’s the big deal about paper? Things look different on paper. They just do. You can read something a hundred times on the screen, but when you read it on paper, it has a different rhythm, a different sound. Your eye catches different things, and it feels somehow more real.”

The TD:D blog carnival is published weekly on Thursdays.

If you would like to submit a post for the TD:D blog carnival, email your link to tododissertation[at]gmail[dot]com by the previous Wednesday at noon.

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Guest Book Review: How To Write a Lot

In contribute, dissertation writing manuals, guest post, reviews, writing tips on November 5, 2010 at 7:13 am

I’m out of town at a conference this week, so instead of the usual blog carnival post I’m happy to share this guest review from a TD:D reader, Tim Rutherford-Johnson.  If you would like to contribute a guest post or review, write to tododissertation [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks for your contribution, Tim!

Book review: How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing, by Paul J. Silvia (American Psychological Association, 2007)

I’m an ex-academic (a PhD who gave up searching for non-existent jobs) who should already be a pretty productive writer (post-PhD I make part of my living selling my words). Nevertheless, this book had its effect on me. Silvia’s appealingly straightforward central tenet is this: productive writers schedule when they’re going to write. I’ve read this excellent truth many times before and yet it is only reading Silvia that has prompted me to open up iCal and start blocking a few hours a week as dedicated writing time. The beauty of the system is that you never need spend time worrying about not writing: you simply write in your scheduled hours, and stop thinking about it outside them. Suddenly I don’t feel the pressure to burn my Sunday afternoons writing any more. Nice!

So in its straightforward, no-nonsense fashion How to Write a Lot can teach even this old(ish) dog a new trick. But there’s more to it than just scheduling. As the name of this book’s publisher indicates, Silvia is a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and he isn’t afraid to pull in scientific support for his arguments, whether they be the productivity benefits of regular writing or the myth of writer’s block.

At its best, this gives his suggestions a reassuring basis in scientific evidence – this a self-help guide that has the support of peer-review. When an author is able to reference experimental data that shows why steady, regular writers are more productive than “binge” writers I’m more inclined to take their advice seriously. However, the blend of science and light-hearted tips also gives How to Write a Lot something of a split personality.

For one thing, most readers will be surprised at Silvia’s insistent focus on the “we” of psychologists rather than addressing himself to a general academic reader (as his title does). Most of his points are generally applicable to all academic writers – there is a very handy little chapter on style from which all authors could benefit – but it is wearing to have to convert the specific into the general on every other page. The problem becomes acute in the chapter on “Writing Journal Articles”, whose breakdown of an article’s structure (Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion) is probably too peculiar to science papers to be much use to authors in the humanities. Yet more oddly, Silvia’s focus on his own discipline of psychology leads him to make occasional, bizarrely blinkered statements such as “If you would like to write a book, you won’t find much practical advice about how to do it”.

And although How to Write a Lot is introduced in its first line as “not a scholarly book” it is needlessly referenced as though it were one (“When T. Shelley Duval and I wrote our book about self-awareness (Duval & Silvia, 2001) …”). Unnecessary clutter. How to Write a Lot is, therefore, a slightly bumpy read, but it has more than enough good points of advice to make it an invaluable purchase for any serious academic author.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson is a Musicology PhD who got out to become a specialist academic proofreader, and a writer on music.