Monday, February 24, 2014

"The Road to Scholarly Writing Utopia"

"Stuck in a writing rut?" asks a recent blog post on the Chronicle of Higher Education's Vitae website. Joli Jensen, professor of communication at the University of Tulsa, has--as have most faculty--been there. Writes Jensen:
Academic life seems to offer us an ideal writing environment. In exchange for teaching a few classes a week, professors supposedly get the time, space, and support they need for their scholarly work. Outsiders picture us in quiet book-lined offices, thinking great thoughts. They assume we're in the company of colleagues who share our interests and offer us writing guidance.
In short, a writing utopia. "But," as Jensen can confirm, "academic reality rarely matches our dreams." Even in what she characterizes as "a fortunate academic career," writing is an ever-present challenge. Her solution is, essentially, letting go of those dreams:
All the research on writing productivity tells us this: To be productive, writers need frequent, low-stress contact with a project that interests them in a supportive environment. When I say this to colleagues, their response is usually stunned silence, then rueful laughter. Their experience, and mine too, has been just the opposite--infrequent, high-stress contact with projects that feel like albatrosses. So let's accept that we live in a writing dystopia, and then find ways to write in it anyway....Once we let go of these delusions, we can identify and address the real obstacles that hinder our scholarly writing, and find ways to overcome them. 
To read Jensen's full essay, click here.

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