Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

Best Time to Write

Occasionally someone will ask me about my writing routine. How do I manage to write regularly? The most immediate thing that comes to mind is having something that really inspires you or gets you thinking, and that you feel compelled to write about it so you can share your ideas with colleagues. Having a steady stream of material to read is also important – and not just library literature, blogs and tweets – but resources from beyond this profession that will expose you to new ideas, stimulate your curiosity and inspire you to apply new ideas to your current situation. The one other thing I’ll usually mention is creating a writing routine and sticking to it as best you can. That usually means identifying both a time slot and a place for your writing. I used to be able to write reasonably well both morning and evening. In the past few years I find myself getting mentally tired by 10 pm, and at that point trying to write is nearly pointless. It may take me 15 minutes to write two sentences, and often I end up changing them in the light of the morning. That’s a huge time waste. So I’ve been shifting more writing to the morning when I have far better productivity. But I didn’t know that research suggests that the morning is the best time for regular writing. Peg Boyle Single, writing for Inside Higher Ed about dissertation writing shared the following:

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.

I agree that it can help to look at writing as a form of deliberate practice where the more frequently we engage in it at a regular time and for a regular duration of time, the more we increase our skill and output over time. It’s always a delight when the research says “you were right all along” (but it’s all right to conveniently ignore when it says you were wrong). I’ve been getting some good ideas from Single’s series of advice columns for dissertation writers. No matter what you are trying to write, you can find some ideas to help you do it better.

We Need One of These For Library Writing

In case you missed it the University of Chicago Writing Program created the academic-sentence generator for those of us too lazy to write our own incomprehensible, pompous academic gibberish. I only wish someone would come up with one of these for library stuff. Here’s an example a random academic sentence I generated:

The emergence of pop culture carries with it the invention of power/knowledge.

Not too shabby. Then again I seem pretty capable of constructing library jargon gibberish quite fine on my own.

Final Word on Neem Essay

Academic librarians have had quite enough to say about this essay, with the majority offering a negative critique or condemning it and a minority suggesting that we are somehow responsible when faculty disrespect us and don’t understand what we actually do. Just two thoughts on this. First, if you or I wrote an essay in the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed that communicated a completely contemptible view of the faculty, do you think they would be suggesting on their blogs and discussion lists that faculty needed to do a better job of helping librarians to understand them. Pretty laughable. More likely, you or I could write off ever having any chance of being hired at a college or university in this country ever again. Second, the next time a member of the faculty publishes an essay like the one by Neem I think the best thing we can do as a community is just to ignore it. No comments. No discussion. Just a huge deafening silence. I think that would be the best comment of all.

5 thoughts on “Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

  1. No, essays such as Neem’s should not be ignored. We must respond to the dissemination of such ill-informed and unhelpful opinions. Moreover, we should hold Inside Higher Ed to a higher standard.

  2. Good post Steven. I agree that having a routine definitely helps with writing. Having a set schedule or set amount of writing keeps you on track and improves your writing.

  3. Ignoring problems tends to, y’know, not make them go away, sadly. Particularly in the current economic climate, where many faculty librarians are under fire anyway from people under the misapprehension that we just hang out all day (or something), that attitude seems particularly dangerous to take. As with all battles, one of actual engagement is preferable–I’ve had several people change their tunes once they actually looked at the work we did, both in terms of academic research and day-to-day operations.

  4. Cait, I do think there is a difference between ignoring a problem and ignoring an essay that does nothing to advance a mutually respectful conversation about a problem. If there is an attitude problem that we need to deal with we can do so by writing our own essays that promote all that we are doing and by backing that up with action within our individual academic communities. Let’s change the perceptions one relationship at a time.

    I know my position is a radical one but when we reply to an essay that seems to have no bearing whatsoever in reality, by giving it mass attention we just help to legitimize the author’s groundless accusations and out-of-touch with reality suggestions. Ignoring it, I think, makes a far more powerful statement. But perhaps by ignoring it I meant – don’t leave a comment. Instead we should do our own communicating to create a more realistic picture of what is happening in a 21st century library and the role of the librarians in shaping and implenting the vision. That is how we should address the problem – which is far from ignoring it.

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