By now you’ve read a million words about how to write – at all, a dissertation, with proper grammar, getting citation styles right, to achieve excellence in your filed, so that you can stay focused on topic – and you’re tired of all those words, all framed as if writing is a necessary and bitter pill to be taken if you want to get better as an academic.
And, quite likely, you’ve thought something along the lines of “What a load of crap.” Or maybe I’ve only thought in terms of that particular response and you’ve framed your response in a more nicely phrased way.
By way of Introduction
I write this blog post as someone who’s written three thesis documents (two for masters degrees, one for a PhD – the first two with engaged advisors, the last without advisors’ input – at all) and who still sometimes teaches undergraduate writing courses but now mostly coaches graduate students and their advisors on ways to develop advanced writing practices and skills. And I write as someone who some days loves writing, other days struggles to get it done, and on most days uses writing to find out what I think. I’ve come to understand that for me writing is one of the team sports I have chosen to participate in across my life.
Meridel LeSueur, as the author of a “how to approach writing” pamphlet in the 1930s, was the first writer I encountered who likened writing to sports. A writer from my home state of Minnesota who produced journalism, fiction for adults, non-fiction for young readers, personal journals across a life of 90+ years, and inspired me as a young writer who got to sit with her. LeSueur noted that comfort and fluency in both activities require participants to regularly:
Just go there – Just write – Just enjoy – Just trust/support your writing colleagues – Just do it.