by: Ed Brantmeier
Fits and starts, mountains and valleys, scheduled and binge—these are how the writing processes of many go during the academic year. Recently I was at a national conference where I attended a workshop on writing productivity. The facilitator insisted that creating a writing log, consisting of time spent writing per day and pages written, had increased writing productivity in the many faculty members she has worked with. Would that help you as a scholarly writer? Could you dedicate 15-30 minutes a day to your writing habit? What would you have to give up? TV time? A bit of sleep?
I suppose the rationale is that writing, like anything, is a conditioned habit. The more time spent on task, the better in terms of productivity—measured in pages produced. If writing for 15-30 minutes was part of your daily habit, then would your ideas be easier to articulate from day to day? Finding time to write and finding what writing habits work best for you seem to all be a necessary part of growth as a life-long writer.
And then there is voice—the unique contribution an individual can provide to authentically connect to audience. One of the best bits of advice I was given is to just write about a topic I was interested in. Never mind doing an exhaustive literature review from the get go. As a graduate student, I was trained that before I could make humble contributions, inferences, and/or claims about a given topic, I had to travel to the ends of the earth in terms of an exhaustive literature review. As a faculty writer, my mentor once told me “Just write—and see where it takes you. Then backfill with literature that connects to your ideas.” This was a liberating moment for me—a moment where I felt unfettered by the conventions of my disciplinary training, free to explore the terrain beyond the horizon. Through that process, I was convinced that trusting my own intellect and voice was valuable, and that in the end, I might indeed contribute something fresh to my discipline. My mentor and friend taught me a valuable lesson that I share with you. Trust yourself and your own voice–fly high in your writing.