In “How to Write a Lot”, the author, Paul J. Silvia, proclaims the message that “productive writers don’t have special gifts or special traits – they just spend more time writing and use this time more efficiently”. In academia, it’s very easy to find excuses as to why you’re not writing enough (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of many of these): there isn’t enough time, there’s more analysis required first, that surely tomorrow you’ll find the motivation needed to create your very best writing. Silvia begins this book by breaking down these “specious barriers” that hold us back. His arguments are convincing, and quickly unravel the flawed logic that creates such road blocks. Instead, he claims, the secret to success is forming a regular writing schedule and sticking to it. Simple? Sure. Too good to be true? Probably not. (more…)
What’s your relationship with writing? I mean, as an academic?
If you’re anything like me, it’s mixed.
Sometimes I think it’s the most amazing thing I can be doing. And I don’t just mean when it’s already in print and I’m looking back on it with the rose-tinted spectacles of post-publication euphoria… I mean there’s just something almost mystical about writing itself, when it flows, when it’s good, when it’s like a dance between me and the right words, working together to capture, and frame, and nuance, and pass on knowledge in just the right form. It’s an art form. It’s exquisite.
Sometimes, though, I hate it. I remember one month of writing (not that long ago) where, in an attempt to get things ‘just right’ I wrote and re-wrote the same first 500 words of an article, racking up a new version every day. This continued until I had 20 versions (10,000 words!), all of them slightly different, and all worse than what I’d written the first day. At month end, I deleted versions 2 to 20. And then I sat and cried.
As I said. Mixed. But, I think, talking to other academics, perhaps not completely untypical. And, given that writing forms a huge part of what we’re paid to do, a problem. A problem that, perhaps because we feel like we should already have it sorted, or because we can’t spare the time because we should be writing, we don’t often give ourselves permission to think about.
And so ‘WriteFest’.
WriteFest is a virtual festival, celebrated across a number of UK and international universities, that is all about writing. It’s a month in which to pull it apart, analyse it, reshape it, put it back together, test it, practise it, and celebrate it.
What could your writing look like, if you set aside a month to really think about, hone and celebrate your craft?
‘Taking time’ is part of the Bristol Clear vision, and so to support you we’re working with the Bristol Doctoral College to running a series of events, ranging from workshops on how to write regularly and productively, to opportunities to write, both formal and informal. And, most days, we’ll be publishing, through this blog and through Twitter, information on writing, reviews of books about writing, snapshots of writers’ habits, and any other material that we can find that we think will be useful.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any ideas, questions, or suggestions.
We look forward to spending the month with you.