We were delighted when Jeff asked us to contribute a blog. One of our favorite things is helping writers feel better about their writing so that they can be more efficient and joyful writers. We're hoping this blog will allow us to do that on an even larger scale than we've done before.
Let us begin by telling you something about ourselves. Sonja is a full professor in the Communication Department at the University of Colorado at Denver; studies contemporary rhetorical theory, feminist perspectives on communication, and visual rhetoric; and is the author of 10 books and almost 50 articles. When she's not helping others with their writing or writing herself, she sews, grows dahlias and all sorts of other flowers and vegetables, and is enamored of just about anything Greek. William is an assistant professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown; is interested in language theory, linguistics, and writing; and has coauthored or edited 3 books and 10 articles. When William isn't helping people edit, write, or theorize a new project, he practices Chan meditation and is trying to learn to play the guitar.
Together, we have worked to help graduate students and faculty produce dissertations, articles, and books since 1999. During this time, we coauthored Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation and have offered weeklong scholars' retreats in Denver, Colorado, as well as on-site retreats of various lengths at Western Michigan University, Marquette University, University of New Mexico, Augustana College, California State University--San Bernardino, New Mexico State University, and Texas A&M University. We have also offered recurring workshops for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and teleconferences for the Text and Academic Authors Association.
During these years of working with more than a thousand academic writers, we have seen, again and again, patterns of thinking that actively hinder a writer's progress. We have discovered that many writers think writing itself needs to be something to be suffered through rather than something that is a rewarding part of their daily lives. In fact, writers often report that trying to write their dissertations is like being audited by the IRS, going to the dentist, or trying to speak a Martian language. Of course, the idea that writing--particularly dissertation writing--is something that must be suffered through is not an unusual idea. Dissertation-help books, academic advisors, as well as family and friends, often portray writing a dissertation as something to be survived. Most of the dissertation books that we have seen adopt either explicit or implicit metaphors that assume the process of writing a dissertation is one of painful, protracted suffering and struggle.
Over the course of working with writers to "unblock" them, we have found that patterns of thinking that focus on the writing process as a struggle keep writers from making significant progress. For example, when a writer thinks her writing project is going to be a long, difficult, open-ended process that may not really lead her anywhere, it is not at all surprising that she will use her genius to finds ways to not write. There are always meetings that need attending, classes that need teaching, more books to be read, or rooms to be cleaned; no wonder there is never any time to write.
We created our own dissertation-writing guide to address this very issue. In our book, Destination Dissertation, we present writing a dissertation as a fun and exciting trip of limited duration to a new place. When writers reframe the dissertation-writing process as a trip where writers go to a new place, make and document observations, and then return home and share those observations with others, they position themselves to complete a high-quality dissertation efficiently.
Continuing the idea of reframing that we began in Destination Dissertation, we intend to use this blog to offer methods and strategies for reconceptualizing academic writing in general and dissertation writing in particular. Our posts--when not guided by responses to your comments and concerns--will offer suggestions about such topics as:
- What is the purpose of your dissertation for you, your advisor, the school, and prospective employers?
- Why don't people finish?
- Can you really write a dissertation in six months?
- Buying time
- Feeling like a fraud
- Writing support groups: They may not be as supportive as they seem
- The economics of a shorter dissertation process
- What to do when you've had a bad writing day
- Naming your dissertation can keep you on schedule
- Becoming a complete scholar by dropping incomplete-scholar roles
- How long should a chapter be?
- Alternatives to the five-chapter, single-topic dissertation
- Turning a dissertation into an article
- Turning a dissertation into a book
Are you ready to make your dissertation or article into a trip? If so, climb aboard!