Motivation and Encouragement for Dissertation Writers Across Disciplines

Archive for the ‘writing tips’ Category

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.


TD:D Blog Carnival: Volume 1, Edition 2

In dissertation writing manuals, online resources, TD:D Blog Carnival, writing tips on July 29, 2010 at 5:00 am

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

In this week’s blog round-up, I’m happy to share several posts that include writing tips for dissertation writers, a response to one of the posts here at TD:D, as well as some posts about a recommended writing manual.

Enjoy the posts and make sure to check back next week for another edition of the TD:D blog carnival.

Writing Tips

The Ten Best Books About Writing by Paste Magazine

My Twitter buddy @glymmers clued me in to this great post on writing manuals.  I’ve read four of the ten that are listed (and I liked them all) and now I have some more books to add to my to-read pile.  My favorite of the ten is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (affiliate link) – stay tuned for a couple informative links about the book below.

Writing a Dissertation is Hard.  Make It Easier. By Howard Buddin

You may remember Howard at The Buddin Research Dynamo for his posts on the paperless dissertation that I talked about several posts ago.  This post includes some great time-saving tips for dissertation writers as well as information on writing more efficiently using technology.

Reader Response

To Watch or Not to Watch by Miss LLA

In her post, Miss LLA responds to an earlier TD:D post about whether dissertation writers should kill their televisions.  I love her honest discussion about how television impacts her dissertation writing and productivity.

TD:D Book Recommendation

I started reading Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (affiliate link) this week and I highly recommend it for dissertation writers who struggle with procrastination or productivity.  Or those who don’t.  Ok, really, I just want to recommend the book to everyone who is facing a large creative project.

In his book, Pressfield discusses what he called Resistance – the thing that keeps us from doing the writing that we should be doing on a regular basis.  My favorite part of the book, however, is when Pressfield discusses what it means for a writer to become a Pro. This section is one of the best things I’ve read on what it means to incorporate writing into your life like you really mean it.  It’s great for dissertation writers planning to enter into the academy or for those of us that just like writing.

If you want to learn more about Pressfield’s book, check out the following posts:

Write Like a Pro by Julianne Douglas

In this post, Julianne Douglas, a historical fiction writer with a PhD in French Literature offers a detailed description of the book’s three parts and talks about how it’s helped her own writing practice.

Writing Wednesday: Team Perez Edition by Luke Perez

Luke Perez uses concepts from Pressfield’s book to talk about writing first drafts.  He bases his post off of a regular series on Stephen Pressfield’s website called Writing Wednesdays (see below) and shares his experience writing the first draft of his thesis.

Writing Wednesdays by Stephen Pressfield

Intrigued by the ideas in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (affiliate link)?  Then you might want to check out Pressfield’s own posts on writing that he appear each week on his website.  If you find the posts helpful, you can subscribe to Pressfield’s weekly posts through an RSS feed reader so you don’t miss any.

The TD:D blog carnival is published weekly on Thursday mornings.

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

Website Wednesday: Write to Done

In online resources, Website Wednesday, writing tips on June 2, 2010 at 5:13 am

Write to Done is one of my favorite writing productivity websites from blogger Leo Babauta, well-known writer of the blog Zen Habits.

If you saw the recent link I posted for How Writing Can Be Like Great Sex, then you might already be familiar with the posts on Write to Done, but here are some of my favorite articles from the blog that I think dissertation writers should check out:

8 Things I Did to Help Me Complete My First Book by Leo Babauta

5 Clever Ways to Keep Your Muse on Speed Dial by guest blogger Dave Navarro

3 Simple Tips for Effortless Writing by Dave Turnbull

If you visit Write to Done and find other great articles, post about them in the comments section below!