Monday 14 January 2019

Writing your PhD (telling your story, academically)

When to write

There is never a set time to write. You can’t plan it – you should but plans sometimes are turned upside down by distractions and procrastination. Therefore, just dare yourself to pick up the pen and scribble. Then write. Write frequently. Write once a week. Write once a month. Write once a day. Write once every three days but to write, you have to read. You have to think. So, read, think, write and repeat.

“Writing is like a 'lust,' or like 'scratching when you itch.' Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I, for one, must get it out.”     
C. S. Lewis

Writing Tips

Before calling it a day – write down your reflections and ideas
After a week of reading – make a summary during the weekend
Be spontaneous – write after breakfast, before bedtime, in between tea/coffee sips, while on the
Schedule a writing date

How to write

There is no rule on this. Either you are a Leonardo da Vinci or a Pablo Picasso. Either you write like Charles Dickens or tweet like Trump. Either you write in prose or write to rhyme your words. Either you write in abstract form or in simple language. Your writing is a style unique to yourself. Let your writing express how you talk to yourself. Write at your own pace. Do not rush. You can scribble down all that comes to you. Or you can list down points you want to discuss. There is no general method to this. You will only know when you begin. You will only get better if you write frequently.

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly”.
C.J. Cherryh

Writing Tips

Start small: write a paragraph or write two or three sentencesWrite between 50 - 200 words daily
Be bold: write a full/partial draft chapter/paper every two/three months
Work with an outline
Write along the borders of your research plan
Use a white board to map out your thoughts

What to write

Write what you want to write but have a strategic plan. Your writing has to get you somewhere. It has to get you to an answer to your research question. So, write what you have to. But not all that you write will be thesis material. Write what it takes you to understand the topic and to draw insights from it. Write on everything you read. Write summaries of each paper you read. Write of the ideas you get from all that you read. Write to ask questions. Write about the history of the scholarship area from whence you derived your idea. Write about how the scholarship has developed. Write about what scholars have said. Write about what the scholars have not said. Write about why you think your writing will contribute to more knowledge. Write to tell your story.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin

Writing Tips

Write about the what, how and why.
·      What is your research question?
·      How are you going to address it?
·      Why is there limited scholarship addressing your research question?
Write on the importance of the school of thought you are relying on to support your thesis
Write out your methodology
Write a historical background
Write out your viewpoints on a particular scholar’s argument

Why write

Your writing shows your growth as a scholar. Your writing is your compass to assess your growth. With it you measure your knowledge. Writing is how you communicate your thoughts. It is your greatest invention. Writing is giving life to your thoughts, your ideas. Writing is the doorway to wisdom. You live a new life with every page you write. Writing is a process of discovery. You will not know the content of your draft– until you write it. Writing is listening to yourself, on paper. When you write, you are telling a story.

“Telling a story is speaking out anew what you always knew you knew but didn’t know you knew it until you heard yourself saying it and in the telling of it, you, the teller, become the listener too.The teller and the listener together both discover the process of finding out what the story is all about as one draws the story out of the other and the story tells itself from cover to cover.”
Ken Chawkin

Draw inspiration from:

The Eagle – she targets her prey and dives in.
The Cheetah – she measures the distance to capture her prey and makes the bold dash. It does not matter whether or not she captures her prey, what matters is that she made the move.

"Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
Henry David Thoreau

Do not be like:

The Vulture – who waits to feed on carcass and left overs.
The Pig – who wastes time digging through crap that does not benefit it.
The Queen Bee – who sits and grows fat while others work.

“If you want to be a writer, you have to write everyday. You don’t go to a well once but daily.”
Walter Mosley

The joy of writing:

§  When your grammar improves following your constant thesaurus checks to avoid repetitive language
§  You can actually brag on paper with the use of words such as ‘epistemology’, ‘hermeneutics’, ‘solipsistic’.
§  You have good reason to justify your support for one scholar over the other.
§  You are making a strong well-reasoned point.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Samuel Johnson

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