232/1030: reflection on writing, Eastern Europe, and ethnocritique

Today (yesterday), I typed over 1000 words (not including this post)…and I don’t even know if I will use them. I’ve never had a problem throughout my entire academic career in reaching a word limit. Rather, my challenge is that I reach the word limit before I’ve said what I mean to say. So I go back and revise. And revise. And re-vision and revise. I guess some people do that revision in their heads and then spit out the finished sentence on the page, spending another ten minutes to create the best sentence to follow after that. However, how can one know if the best sentence is the one one comes up with the first time? And that it’s not the sentence that comes four or five sentences later? How can one keep track of all the different sentence possibilities? So what I do is just write everything and do the work afterwards. I’ve always been a rather tactile learner, so having the sentences on the page to rearrange is easier for me that doing it all in my head. So there you so, some writing style notes from me.

I didn’t actually get to do all the homework I meant to over the weekend. I covered most of my notes on Eastern Europe and the conception of the region by the rest of Europe and the eastern Europeaners themselves. Surprise surprise, these conceptions significantly differ. Also, ethnic violence and “structured hate” as Olga Grjasnowa puts it, are more complex than made out to be by external media. I have my work cut out for me, then, when looking at Stanišić and Grjasnowa. 

So I came to the office with the rest of my WiSe 2017 notes and primarily looked at James Clifford’s introduction to Writing Culture. It was a productive session. I managed to categorize the reading and considerations of ethnographic writing under “representation politics.” Just realizing this was enough work for the day because, while I did annotate the reading, knowing when to draw upon it in my dissertation is the bigger half the battle. 

Tomorrow (today, since I’m late in posting), I’m beginning the highlighting adventures of notes from 2014/15. Wish me luck? 

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What kind of (academic) writer are you?

When you look up “what kind of writer am I?” on Google, most of the results come back with quizzes designed to tell you what kind of fiction you like to write. I haven’t found anything talking about academic writing styles in the sense of what kinds of methods we use in producing a text.

If you’re someone who follows this blog, chances are, you write a lot of essays or articles. You may even have written an undergraduate thesis, a Masters thesis, or even a dissertation (go you!). If you’ve ever worked very long on a writing project, you probably already figured out how you work as a writer. If you have, and especially if you haven’t, here are some good things to take note of about yourself:

  • Are you productive in the morning, or the afternoon? Or in the later hours of the evening?
  • When you write, do you like to brainstorm for hours and then writer in one go? Or do you like to collect all the information and material, write in small sections, and then organize it into a quilt like this?:

Check out Judy’s sewing and needlework!: http://www.chainsawartist.com/GDJudyRainbowQuilt.jpg

  • You may also be a writer who collects research material while you write, and then incorporates it right away into the section you’re working on.
  • Do you like to revise as you go, section by section? Or do you like to complete all the parts of your project and then revise in one fell swoop? Or both?
  • When you have a large writing project (over many days, weeks, months, or years) do you find yourself writing entire days and taking entire days off? Or do you schedule writing time for each day, and try to stick to it? Or do you write exclusively on the weekends/during the week?
  • Do you like to write in the same space every time, or do you have to move around to different locations to stay productive from day-to-day?
  • Do you like to listen to music? Are you adamant about not listening to music? Does it depend?
  • Do you work exclusively on the computer? Or do you like to print drafts out and work on them with a pen, returning to the computer when you are ready to make changes?
  • When you revise, do you try to keep everything and make connections strong? Or are you more likely to cut out something that does not make as much sense at first glance, dedicating more time to the things at the core of your argument?
  • Do you have a support team? People you can talk to about your project and who usually listen with a sympathetic ear, but are willing to tell you to shape up if they see you floundering for the sake of floundering (not to be confused with actual problems that come along -panic or anxiety for example). When actual problems come along, do you know who you would go see for help?
  • Do you have someone who will read your texts for you as you go? Or only at the end?
  • Do you set deadlines for yourself that are earlier than the final deadline? Or is the rush of the hard deadline all you need?
  • Do you have anti-procrastination/motivational quotes around you on your desk/in your room?
  • Do you like writing? If not the project as a whole, think about the parts of writing you do like: the research, the integration of quotes, transitions, introducing topics, conclusions, revisions, the feeling of productivity itself…

There are of course many more aspects of being a writer, and many more things to cover, but in answering these questions, you can find some of your writing habits. All of these habits make up the kind of writer you are. Knowing about your habits can a) help you explain yourself to your supervisor or adviser, so that they can suggest changes that may work better for you/the project you are completing, and b) help you become realistic about your habits and time management so that when you find yourself unproductive or worried about completing the project, you can look at your situation and compare it with the things you’ve noticed about yourself. For example, if it’s the second day of writing and you’ve worked non-stop, when you normally work a few hours and take a few hours break, then you can see maybe that a break is in order and you should return to your habitual method. If you’re struggling to revise online and usually like to work with paper, print it out.

I guess success in a longer writing project comes down to knowing your options. That way, when one way doesn’t work, you can try something else.

Also, remember practice makes perfect. And like many other things that become better with practice (like running), it may make sense to keep a sort of writing  log – not a journal or log for stories, ideas, or how you felt when Susan looked at you that way, but a log in which you assess what you were able to accomplish and how. Which hours did you work, when were your breaks? How did you start writing that day? What materials/methods did you use?

Could be interesting to hold onto that for any future projects. It’s something to look back at.

So, while I didn’t tell you what kind of writer you are (sorry, kids), I did suggest some ways to figure out what kind of writer you are… less fun than the quizzes online, but probably more accurate.

Cheers, and happy writing.