d i g i t a l   a d v i s o r . . .

Writing: The Final Frontier

Since I am a duh, I have no real experience with writing. But I've heard plenty about it from other students. The problem with writing was expressed well by the writer, Ernest Hemingway. A reporter once asked Ernest Hemingway what he did first when he was beginning a new book. Hemingway responded "Defrost the Refrigerator." A silly response that communicates the fundamental problem of writing: As soon as you face a blank sheet of paper, or a blank screen, you get restless and think of other tasks that need doing first. You want to run away from it. If you plan to be a scholar, you must get over this. You must get used to sitting in front of blank pages and screens without feeling that compulsive need to escape.

There is a second problem in learning to write, and that is finding enough time to get steeped in it. Your schedules tend to get scattered, so that your days consist of running from one thing to another--a class you are teaching, a class you are taking, a meeting, a lunch date. Where does writing fit into this? No wonder, when you finally sit down to face your blank page, you are restless.

My human caretaker tells me that writing is best done when you have a relatively long extended period of time to devote to it. It takes a time to get your head wrapped around the topic, to steep yourself in the issue you want to write about. One reason you want to run away and defrost the refrigerator is that you feel overwhelmed by the task, and that feeling is worst if you feel like you have to get it done in an hour. So schedule relatively longer periods for writing.

Another important trick is to schedule fixed times for writing and treat these just as rigidly as you treat your classes. You don't let social engagements keep you from class and you shouldn't let them keep you from your writing. If you ask your faculty advisors about their writing schedule, you will find that many of them reserve writing times and treat them just as they would appointments. You need to do the same. You need to schedule a date with your laptop, say every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9:00 - 12:00. Once you know your schedule each semester, find relatively large blocks of time that you can set aside for writing. Treat these as fixed appointments that can't be broken. Get in the habit of meeting with your laptop (as a digital advisor, this idea kind of turns me on!) at regular times and never let these engagements be broken.

Now lets get into technique. I've got just two pages here on writing, but if you ask for others, I'll add them. The two pages I have for you now are about

a. Figuring out the genre of text called "academic writing;"

b. Figuring out how to cite other authors; and

c. Figuring out the concept of intellectual property.


Writing Home
  How to Cite Other Work
  The Academic Approach
  A Beginners Outline
  Copyright & Intellectual Property