Back to writing

It’s been quite a while since I have graced the blogging scene with my writing. And with this blog post comes a return to or rather continuing of writing both in the blogging sense and the professional sense. As part of a graduate student training program with the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) at Baylor, I am co-leading a 12-week graduate student writing workshop with the Assistant Director of the ATL, Ashley Palmer. As daunting as the task seems to me, I am extremely excited about others helping me boost my writing productivity as well as helping other people boost their own productivity.

The course builds off of the foundations of Paul Silvia’s book, How to Write a Lot, and Wendy Belcher’s workbook, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. Both of these resources provide excellent tools, tips, and practical advice on how to increase your writing productivity just by committing to writing every day.

In starting this course, I am realizing how difficult it is to stick to writing 1-2 hours EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s not that much time. I can think of a million things I would do in that time and ordinarily do in that amount of time. Eat lunch, cook dinner, hang out with friends, teach class, etc. Heck, I’d almost endure Jersey Shore for an hour or two before wanting to write for that long.

Part of the process of learning how to lead this writing group better is understanding why we fight writing so much. I think it is because we have lost the art of fluidity and articulation. So often, I pressure myself to have a perfect, pristine first draft the first time through, but that never happens. Strangely, it is my own obsession with perfection that prevents me from producing good articles in the first place. Sadly, with this goal of perfection in mind, I often skip the most important parts of writing well: 1) talking through my ideas/main points and 2) outlining my ideas/paper! Obviously if I can’t articulate and outline where I am going with my paper, I will not magically write it clearly later on. “Well, duh,” I say to myself. But the revelation is groundbreaking for me.

In these moments of fearing writing, I often turn to blogging. I wonder why I am able to blog so easily, but I FIGHT the need to write professionally? I think it is because when I blog, I allow myself to think out loud, so to speak. Strangely, it is this thinking out loud – that art of sitting down and informally telling my audience what I want them to know about my topic – that allows me to be the most comprehensible and clear writer I can be. Sure, I may get a little lost, but at least I’m writing! And this is precisely why I have my students blog. I want them to become used to the art of writing EVERY SINGLE DAY. Just like exercise, it’s getting into the habit of doing something every day that eventually makes that very thing part of your daily routine.

So I set out on this journey to write more and to write better. And I’m starting off with blogging as my inspiration for getting my ideas flowing. For the next couple of weeks, I will start every manuscript out more informally with outlining and talking through the main points I want to address.

Does anyone out there have thoughts/ideas/suggestions on how to improve daily writing?

About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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