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Complex Writing Projects; Simple Writing Logs

Complex Writing Projects; Simple Writing Logs

Although my writing projects tend to be short, meaning measured by number of words instead of pages, my dissertation is one huge exception. Managing it and keeping myself motivated and accountable requires some outside structure, some sort of device that tracks my progress and doesn’t ding me for not “measuring up.”

I have tried some really great software, apps, and online accountability programs (special shout-out to 750 Words); however, they tend to be too complicated, too punitory, or too expensive for what I need.

Inspiration, as it often does, came from my friend Ryan, an English Ph.D student and my personal writing instruction mentor/guru. He just prints out a writing log, something simple that tracks word count, and enters in each day’s work with a pen.

No muss; no fuss.

Here is a .pdf of the Writing Log I made and use. Feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you want. As long as you promise to just keep writing!

Lowering the Stakes with Online Writing: A Case Study [GradHacker]

Lowering the Stakes with Online Writing: A Case Study [GradHacker]

In my latest post, I walk you through how I solved a pedagogical problem using a digital tool…

I have written several posts on digital literacy and pedagogy for GradHacker, many of which suggest ways to incorporate digital components into undergraduate courses. The overarching theme to all of my advice is simple: start with clearly articulated learning goals, and then find the right digital tools to achieve them. Not only does this help you focus on the learning objectives instead of being distracted by shiny new technologies, it also ensures that your students understand the value of the digital assignment and that you are not overwhelmed with troubleshooting.

So, today, I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of giving more advice along these lines, I wanted to walk you through how I approached and eventually solved a pedagogical puzzle with a digital tool. The rest of this post will walk you through how I developed a successful low-stakes online writing assignment for a beginning English Composition course, which might helpful for graduate students designing their first college course or more seasoned instructors who want to incorporate a little digital into their preexisting classes…

To read the rest, check it out at GradHacker!

[Image provided by Flickr user Alan Levine and used under a Creative Commons license.]

Three Books that Changed my Dissertation [GradHacker]

Three Books that Changed my Dissertation [GradHacker]

In this month’s post on GradHacker, I discuss Stephen King, Anne Lamott, and… Julia Child!?!

Writing is hard.

It can be isolating, messy, frustrating, mentally taxing, and a constant exercise in self-discipline. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either riding a great wave of creative productivity (which will eventually recede) or is trying to sell you something (like a new irreplaceable productivity tool). Occasionally though, when you are able to perfectly express yourself on the page and block out your negative inner voice, it can be transcendent.

Nevertheless, these moments of transcendence aren’t the only reasons why most of us in graduate school write. We have to write seminar papers, syllabi, abstracts, grant proposals, and, eventually, a giant dissertation—all utilitarian forms of expressing ourselves which can be creatively liberating or a terrible burden.

Five months ago, I decided that it was time to devote myself completely to finishing my dissertation. Although I still don’t have a complete chapter, I am inching closer to my goals day-by-day. But it is a constant struggle for me, someone who has difficulty writing everyday, who can’t help editing as she writes, and who would often rather clean the entirety of her apartment than write a paragraph.

During a particularly bad bout of procrastination when I decided that I could not write a single word until all of my books were reorganized, I discovered a stash of memoirs and how-to books that I had collected in my early twenties. Some of them were rather famous—Strunk and Whites’ The Elements of Style—and others were cute and esoteric.

Queen of self-delusion, I reasoned that reading books about writing was the same as actually writing, so I started to read. And I am thankful that I did! The overriding message of all of theses books is the same: writing is hard work, you are not alone, and you can write whatever you set your mind to. This message turned out to be the exactly what I needed to hear.

In the spirit of this holiday season, I wanted to share with you the three books that have had the largest impact on me and my dissertation in the hopes they might inspire you, too.

To read the rest, click on over to the original post!

[Photo from Flickr user Lidyanne Aquino and used under the Creative Commons License.]

Re-Starting: Strategies for Returning to Your Dissertation

Re-Starting: Strategies for Returning to Your Dissertation

From my latest post on Inside Higher Ed’s GradHacker blog:

Three months ago, I had a very clear plan for how my summer was going to progress. My cross-country move from Southern California to New Jersey was meticulously planned, and I was ready to start my life as a full-time dissertation writer. After unpacking, which I figured wouldn’t take more than a week, I just knew that the words would easily and effortlessly flow from my fingertips. A chapter by the end of August: no problem!

But then something happened. A stream of somethings, actually. Maybe more like a raging river of somethings…

To see the rest, check out the full post!

[Image by Flickr user Acid Pix and used under the Creative Commons license.]