Writing Insights

Last week I had a meeting with a tenured faculty member in education to get some feedback on a paper I’ve been working on for 5 years. I last touched it the day before baby was born, aside from a few touch-ups in the days before the meeting. She is a wonderful encouraging mentor for women in academia. She said the writing is good and meets the criteria for the journal I want to submit it to (she reviews for them). All I need to do is chop 3000 words to meet their word limit.
Since that meeting I have been feeling piles of writing, production energy. I can write! I want to write! I will write! And I’ll publish!

I also just found out that I have about 20 days of vacation time to use up before winter break. I’m allocating a few days over the next few weeks to writing: bring baby to mom to look after, and motor away at it.

The thought of clearing out the writing backlog is exhilarating. I’ve had a number of projects sitting on my list for years. Years. And I try and get to them and never do. Looking back now on time pre-baby, I can see how I could have made more time. But I didn’t. And now I need to. I’ve tried to just let them go, but haven’t been able to. Each of the projects represents a passion, a commitment, boxes of time and piles of work. I need to see some of these through before I can move on to the other fun projects I want to do.

And I realize that lack of faith in my abilities has greatly slowed me down. I doubt I can do the work, so I just don’t. And then I blame my inadequate doctoral education for not mentoring me in writing and publishing. Well, it’s true: I did not get the training in those areas I should have. And regrets over my doctoral studies will be another post. However, that is the past and this is the now and I’ll be living in my future and I want to do this so I will.

I’m learning to trust that I am a GOOD WRITER. Particularly for qualitative research. I join quotes, comment on themes, connect ideas, with ease and elegance.

My self-proclaimed weakness has always been the literature reviews. I never learned how to read an article, what to pull out from it, how to assess what materials are most relevant and craft a context for a piece. But guess what? All that takes is a bit of time and effort. With all the materials published now, it’s impossible to be exhaustive. Use a couple relevant search engines, read new and relevant (relevant! Not generally interesting but not really on the core issues) articles, identify how they relate to what you want to say, and cite them.

My revising has also been an inspiring process. Though the paper maybe was okay last year, my revisions have highlighted for me how much work there was to do. I’ve completely reorganized my opening section (about a page), moving almost everything around. I have no idea how I rationalized the flow before; I suppose it is the usual attachment we each have to our own words and the subsequent challenge of changing or cutting them. Then today I realized again that the lit review section isn’t working. The difference? I figured out how to make it work! Instead of an in-depth review of several key studies, I’ve identified the 3 key themes (spectrums of citizenship curricula) that my study addresses and organized the articles under that in paragraphs. It feels so much cleaner; I’m thrilled. I still have to cut about 1500 more words, and that will be a challenge, I can tell you. However, it is a learning process and I suspect the paper will be better for it.

My husband gave me about 1.5 hours today for writing and it was hugely helpful. I’ve asked for another chunk of time tomorrow. Then on my next writing day (Tuesday) I can build on the gains of the weekend and move to completion! And then, oh, I’m salivating in anticipation of tackling another project. I haven’t had an energy booster like writing for a long, long time.

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