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Getting Your Writing Groove Back - Dr Alison Hicks & Dr Meg Westbury

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Getting Your
Writing Groove Back
Dr Alison Hicks, JIL Editor in Chief
Dr Meg Westbury, JIL Managing Editor

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Introduction

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This moment
● It’s been a tough two years and we’re
exhausted
● Connection with values: social justice
and community
● Can...

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Getting Your Writing Groove Back - Dr Alison Hicks & Dr Meg Westbury

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Presented at LILAC 2022

Presented at LILAC 2022

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Getting Your Writing Groove Back - Dr Alison Hicks & Dr Meg Westbury

  1. 1. Getting Your Writing Groove Back Dr Alison Hicks, JIL Editor in Chief Dr Meg Westbury, JIL Managing Editor
  2. 2. Introduction
  3. 3. This moment ● It’s been a tough two years and we’re exhausted ● Connection with values: social justice and community ● Can we work with our exhaustion and inspiration to further information literacy research and practice? ● Can we find the energy to write? Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
  4. 4. Today’s session ● To understand that writing = thinking and that quality writing comes through revising and editing ● To understand the benefits of serial writing and to help establish a cadence of writing (and not writing) ● To become familiar with techniques for freeing up your writing and confident with ones you already have ● To reconnect with and/or discover topics you are passionate about in the field of information literacy Photo by Eric Tompkins on Unsplash
  5. 5. Grace ● Impossible standards of perfection ● Writing does not equal self worth! ● Give yourself grace to: ○ Make mistakes ○ Not impress every reader ○ Take breaks Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash
  6. 6. The Process of Writing
  7. 7. Myths about writing ● Myth: Everyone writes better than me. In fact, everyone writes badly the first several times and through revising/editing, we arrive at something passable. ● Myth: You need to have your thoughts in order before you start writing. However, the best way to unblock yourself is by writing. ● Myth: You write best when you feel like it or have a lot of time to write. But these moments tend to be few and far between. Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash
  8. 8. The ‘magic’ of good writing ● Comes in the revision process ● You cannot create and criticise at the same time ● The ‘seamless’ writing we encounter in published works is the result of many cycles of revisions and edits ● Time management implications! Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash
  9. 9. Writing as a journey ● Think of writing as a journey: ○ The journey out involves thinking about the topic in exploratory ways, writing for yourself to discover what you are thinking ○ The journey back is when you shape your ideas to fully answer your questions and fit the convention/genre you are communicating within – this is revision ● We are focussing on the outward journey today (but see bonus slides at end about the revision process) Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash
  10. 10. Writer’s block ● Used to explain why we’re not writing ○ Need to have perfect ideas before writing ○ Feel overwhelmed by the amount to do ● Blocked moments are a common, perhaps universal aspect of writing ● Blocks are opportunities for writing Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash
  11. 11. Writing = thinking ● You figure out what you think and believe by writing ● When you write, you connect ideas and find your own voice and direction ● Writing clarifies your thinking ● Getting started is hard Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash
  12. 12. Writing as process, not outcome ● Viewing writing as a process is less stressful and more balanced ● Momentum and ideas come from writing regularly, in short moments ● Short writing activities help you feel connected to your writing, so it’s easier the next time to write ● Overall productivity is heightened Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
  13. 13. No one right way to write ● There are many different approaches to writing, and you will find what works best for you ● Guilt that you’re not ‘doing it right’ isn’t productive. Avoid beating yourself up ● You will learn your own productive rhythms, which include time for not writing Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash
  14. 14. Generative Writing Techniques
  15. 15. Tiny texts ● Write tiny texts ● Write, but write it small ● Writing tiny texts helps you: ○ Structure your piece ○ Figure out your 'moves' ○ Stay focused, avoid burnout and create a rough draft on your ‘outward’ journey Photo by Ernie A. Stephens on Unsplash
  16. 16. Prompts ● Free write (i.e., don’t stop) for 10 minutes: ○ What I am most interested in is…’ ○ ‘The studies that inspired me most are…’ ○ ‘What I want to look at is…’ ○ ‘The idea that I keep coming back to is…’ ○ ‘Why I have nothing to write about…’ ○ ‘The next thing I want to write about is…’ ○ ‘There are implications for…’ ● Writing occurs, text is generated, you will have something to harvest Photo by Daniel Öberg on Unsplash
  17. 17. Brainstorm sections ● You can do this at any stage of your writing: ○ Name headings and sub-headings ○ Jot down ideas for each section ○ Assign provisional word counts ○ Make to-do lists for each section ● You then have a road map and manageable chunks of writing to focus on ● The trick is to break your writing down into a series of manageable tasks Photo by Hugo Rocha on Unsplash
  18. 18. Timed writing ● Rounds of short writing periods coupled with short break periods ● Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of writing + 5 minutes breaks. After four rounds, take a longer break ● Helps to minimise fatigue ● Helps to manage distractions and maintain focus and motivation ● Lots of Pomodoro timers online or try https://www.forestapp.cc/ to watch trees grow! Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash
  19. 19. Lateral thinking ● Write in verse ● Write a letter or memo ● Alternate writing hands ● Paint a picture ● Make a mind-map e.g., using https://www.mindmeister.com/ ● Make a model e.g., with blocks or Lego ● Take a walk, make a meal, fold laundry, clean the bathroom, etc. ● Dance your PhD (find on YouTube) Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash
  20. 20. Social writing ● Write with a friend or small group ● Write silently or comment on each others’ writing ● Time the sessions / have some structure ● Self-confidence and engagement is cultivated by pooling, discussing and sharing perspectives Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash
  21. 21. Something to try ● To kick-start your writing perhaps try cycles of: ○ Writing to prompts ○ Free-your-brain activities ○ Structured social writing ● It is never too late to start these techniques and see benefits Photo by Chepe Nicoli on Unsplash
  22. 22. Workshop
  23. 23. One Discussion in pairs or small groups: Concerns and fears about writing, but also which of the generative writing techniques would you like to try? (5 minutes) Photo by Marcel Eberle on Unsplash
  24. 24. Two What information literacy topics do you feel passionate about? Look through the LILAC programme and identify 2-3 things that really get you excited (or perplexed, or cross!). (5 minutes) Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash
  25. 25. Three Discussion in pairs or small groups about these interests and passions. (5 minutes) Photo by Shumilov Ludmila on Unsplash
  26. 26. Four Mini-social writing session 1: Free write for five minutes using the writing prompt: “Why is Topic X important for our work?” Imagine your audience is your manager or team. (5 minutes) Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
  27. 27. Five Discussion in pairs or small groups how that felt. (5 minutes) Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
  28. 28. Six Mini-social writing session 2: Brainstorm sections for your writing piece. How do you think you might order it? This is just a preliminary outline: you can always change it later when revising! (5 minutes) Photo by Baher Khairy on Unsplash
  29. 29. Seven All-group discussion: ● How do you feel about your writing piece thus far? ● What other generative writing techniques would you have liked to try? ● Can you see yourself developing your writing into something longer? (5 minutes) Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash
  30. 30. Conclusion
  31. 31. In sum ● Writing doesn't come after research, it's an integral part of the thinking process itself ● Writing doesn’t just beget more writing, it develops fluency and reinforces that you actually can write! ● Writing can be an 'animating activity' and an 'enjoyable adventure in thought' as opposed to an anxiety-ridden process (Badley 2015) Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
  32. 32. Ring fence your writing time ● Set time to write regularly ● Protect the time – it’s your time ● It’s self-care to know that you have time to write ● The ‘things you don’t want to do’ lose their power over you a bit Photo by Patrick Baum on Unsplash
  33. 33. Encouraging books about writing ● Lamott, A. (2020/1995). Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. ● Murray, R. (2011). How to Write a Thesis. (One of the best books for approaching writing as tiny texts) ● Sword, H. (2017). Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write. Photo by Max Di Capua on Unsplash
  34. 34. Writing for JIL ● Research articles ● Project reports ● Book reviews ● Conference reports ● Special issues / mentoring ● Different formats ● https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL ● jinfolit@gmail.com
  35. 35. Dr Meg Westbury Academic Services Librarian University of Cambridge Email: mw528@cam.ac.uk Twitter: @MegWestbury Dr Alison Hicks Lecturer, Library and Information Studies University College London Email: a.hicks@ucl.ac.uk Twitter: @alisonhicks0
  36. 36. Bonus Slides: The Revision Process
  37. 37. Revising vs proofreading ● Revising: Active reading and rearranging of your text, putting your future readers’ needs first ● Proofreading: The process of making corrections and checking for consistency (while not making the sort of revisions that could introduce new errors) Photo by Earl Wilcox on Unsplash
  38. 38. Letting go ● It can be a challenge to delete material from our writing. Throwing away ‘perfectly good writing’ is hard to do! ● In the process of revision, however, you are not writing for you, you’re writing for your readers. Your readers will often be satisfied with just a brief mention of what you have worked out ● Accepting this broader purpose of writing can lessen your attachment to particular sentences and paragraphs ● Create a place to store cut text, in case you want it later. This with encourage you to be a more ruthless editor Photo by Sagar Patil on Unsplash
  39. 39. Revision can include… ● Word choice: Have you used apt vocabulary? ● Sentence structure: Are your sentences easy for the reader to follow? ● Flow between sentences, paragraphs, sections: Have you found the optimal order and then signalled that order to your reader? ● Tone: Have you engaged your reader while still conforming to academic writing conventions? ● Economy: Have you avoided distracting digressions or general wordiness? ● Overall coherence: Is there a clear and discernible argument or structure to your writing? Tips from: https://explorationsofstyle.com/tag/reader-awareness/ Photo by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash
  40. 40. Sequence of revision activities 1. Broad structural issues: Tackle the big things first. Most people start with the small, but that’s tightening the wheels before all the parts are on 2. Clarity: Look for extra words and undue complexity 3. Sentence-level errors: Look for further errors that reduce clarity 4. Cohesion problems: Make sure the entire piece coheres and reads logically
  41. 41. 1. Broad structural issues Reverse outline technique: 1. Number the paragraphs 2. Identify the topic of each paragraph 3. Arrange these topics into an outline 4. Analyze this outline for logic and proportion 5. Create a revised outline 6. Reorganize the text according to the revised outline 7. Check for topic sentences and cohesion Rank your points that substantiate your arguments. Eliminate ones that are not as important as others Alternate approach: If you don’t want to eliminate any points, you can still reduce word count by taking the topic sentence, or main idea, of several less important paragraphs to create new combined paragraphs with less detail than the most important paragraphs Photo by Sean Pollock on Unsplash
  42. 42. 2. Clarity ● Remove excessive detail: often sentences or paragraphs present repeat information ● Adverbs, especially ones that end in ‘ly,’ e.g., actually, commonly, continually, finally, fully, greatly, perfectly, totally, urgently (usually can remove about 75% of these!) ● Multiple adjectives: One or none usually suffice ● Extra words and phrases that don’t add meaning such as ‘kind of,’ ‘sort of,’ ‘type of, ‘basically,’ ‘for all intents and purposes,’ ‘definitely,’ etc. ● Redundant phrases: ‘completely finish,’ ‘free gift,’ ‘past memories,’ ‘various differences,’ etc. Photo by Bibi Pace on Unsplash
  43. 43. 3. Sentence level ● Guided by your own writing patterns ● Common issues such as subject-verb agreements, ambiguous references or punctuation ● Read sentences aloud or listen to a text-to-speech app. How do the sentences sound to you? Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash
  44. 44. 4. Cohesion ● Finally, make sure that your writing all coheres. New inconsistencies might have been introduced ● A final round of revision is often required to ensure a natural flow of text
  45. 45. Conclusion: Commit to extensive revision ● Revision needs to be part of your writing plan. Budget the time for it (more than you think you need!) ● It means putting your readers’ needs first ● All writing needs revising, not just yours ● Treat your text as malleable raw material that you can shape ● Yes, you will be able to fix your writing! Photo by Malvestida on Unsplash

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