Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Mo at Neurophilosophy Twittered a link to a blog called Inside Higher Education: Career Advice, about writing a dissertation, by Peg Boyle Single. It seems she has a book out.

The column is also full of good advice about writing in general. Part 1, A Regular Writing Routine, is a layout of the mechanics. Write whenever you have a chance.
"Motivation in writing comes from prewriting, prewriting, prewriting. Motivation occurs when you have done the necessary planning steps so that when you sit down to write prose, you have had time to subconsciously play around with the ideas and you only have to retrieve and type down the ideas, not to think them up. Motivation occurs when you have a very detailed long outline, filled in with citeable notes, by your desk that guides your writing."

Part 2 is What the Research Says. The first item recommended is to develop "deliberate practice."
"So what is deliberate practice? It is not inherently fun nor is it intrinsically rewarding. It is work. Deliberate practice is effortful practice with full concentration and includes a mechanism by which the results of the practice can be evaluated and improved upon in future sessions. Often a coach or master teacher oversees the deliberate practice, chooses individualized training tasks, and evaluates the results of the training. Experts more often engage in deliberate practice during the morning; research has supported that we have the greatest capacity for sustained, engaged and demanding cognitive activity during the morning. Research has also supported the many anecdotal accounts that four hours is the length of time that deliberate practice can be sustained."

It sounds like training for anything sounds. Start with twenty minutes a day and build up to 4 hours/day. Neuroplasticity will develop the brain. Pattern recognition is enhanced, etc.
"Novice writers tend to focus on the word or the sentence as the unit of creation or as the unit of analysis. Expert writers focus on the whole and on the paragraph as the smallest unit of creation or analysis."

Please, if you want to be a writer, read the entire posts carefully, especially if you have to write something academic. I can attest to how hard it is and how easily one can be chewed and spat out. My first and only (academic) paper so far was a disaster, swiftly rejected by the one and only journal I sent it to. I could not figure out what it was reviewers wanted - if it was a failure merely of style, or if I was simply inept at delivering written content, or if they hated the content itself. I'm still baffled. I could definitely have used this advice a year ago.

I can hardly wait for the next two columns in the 4-part series. Thank you Peg. Thank you Mo.

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