AFNFM: Beginning to write before I’m ready…

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpgi-0e7dc85b440b3b1fd25ceec4d60299d8-atnfm.jpgI’ve carried on with the activity of actively waiting in accordance with Boice’s Advice for New Faculty Members that I’m blogging about this semester. And I’m preparing for trying Chapter 10: Begin Writing Early.

More below the fold…

I mentioned to a colleague that I was trying to follow Boice’s exercises, but that I was being blocked by not knowing what to do during my periods of “actively waiting.” She had started reading the teaching section (as Lab Cat also did), and found ideas there that parallel the idea of actively waiting to write. Advocated, in fact, is (p. 24):

  • doodling and diagraming
  • free-writing, or talking to yourself about some of your thinking out loud
  • congratulating yourself about how you’re starting this early and not waiting until the last minute (ok, I’m paraphrasing here).

So I’ve been practicing this every so often, as I’m waiting for a student to come to an appointment, or before I head out my office to a meeting or class. And I’m finding it rather refreshing – I’m spending a scosh of time thinking about a writing project or two I know I would otherwise be ignoring or avoiding, and instead, I have a couple of outlines to play along with! I feel I’m making progress!

So, then, perhaps it is time to move on to Ch 10, on beginning writing early. ‘Cause even if I am feeling undeservedly virtuous about making my paper’s outline, I sure as hell am not feeling ready to tackle my “proper” writing.

Boice suggests starting with pre-writing, which he unfortunately likens unto foreplay, a metaphor I only find distracting in the context of writing. Specifically, he suggests just getting some ideas out on to paper, without really thinking too much about it, without judging it, without needing to be confident about what you’re writing. He again suggests talking though ideas out loud or writing little notes to yourself about what you MIGHT write about, and try to see the writing project more holistically. Hold back a little, he says, from moving out of this pre-writing stage too quickly. Spend more time outlining or switching ideas around in different orders. Carry on with more free-writing, that brainstorming of the writing mode.

Okay, Boice. I’ll give it a go. Maybe I’ll even end up with a plan for this paper before the end of September. Maybe.

How about those of you playing along at home? How are you doing? (Please also go read Jane B’s post about how she’s doing, and share your posts below, if you’re blogging as we go.)


  1. #1 KH
    September 10, 2008

    Hmmm, this sounds remarkably like my writing process as it exists anyway. I spend a certain quantity of time reading papers, making notes and thinking about the task in hand. I have to get all the facts and ideas into my head so that it can reach somekind of critical mass where phrases and paragraphs will just shoot out onto the page. Then I sit down and write as much as I can with bullet points where I only have vague ideas; phrases, sentences and paragraphs where things are more obvious. The final stage is beating all of that lot into shape by headstrong editing and rewriting.
    I can’t ‘write proper’ the first time out (unless it is a blog post on a subject that I feel particularly passionate about). Of course, this only works when I have sufficient time because it is a long process. It also does not work when I am revising a manuscript for resubmission: the initial critical mass is lost and I’m left with a huge editing job.

  2. #2 ScienceWoman
    September 10, 2008

    I find it really funny that you went back and started reading the teaching section, because that’s exactly what I did too. I was getting really frustrated with the writing section, but when I found him saying the same things (maybe more clearly) in the teaching section, I’m suddenly seeing how they could apply to both. I’m not sure I’m actually more productive or efficient yet.

    I think I’m also doing better with this tip than the first one (waiting) because this is how I already write (when I am writing productively). I’m a compulsive list maker and outliner. Eventually I have enough in my outline to actually start carving off big blocks of text.

  3. #3 stepwise girl
    September 12, 2008

    I said I would participate… I still intend to and am have now arrived in my new place for three monts… so I’ll get the book soon!

New comments have been disabled.