Graham Harman has been posting some very useful advice for graduate students (and aspiring academic writers) here and here. The five “lessons” at the end of the first piece are especially useful.

To the third – “Write for the specific occasions that called for the writing” – I would add: and create those occasions when necessary, but don’t create too many of them. (I used to try to attend too many conferences, which is a temptation when one is doing the kind of interdisciplinary work that has no obvious home but many potential homes-away-from-home.) And to the fifth – “Keep reading new things, and write about them after you read about them” – this is very good practice, a kind of mental/intellectual hygiene, and it’s part of the reason why I started this blog. (On the other hand, getting free books in exchange for book reviews can be more expensive, in time spent, than it’s worth, since book reviews don’t get you far.) The point is to keep reading, keep thinking, keep talking, and make connections between your teaching and your reading/writing whenever possible.

One piece that could be expanded on: How much time should you spend editing, rewriting, and refining what you write? There’s an art to this, and my tendency has usually been to overdo it. But there’s a place for the definitive article or book (which takes a lot of time and work), and a place for the quickie. The dissertation, for instance, could become the first kind of thing (which is why it’s best to write it with a book in mind). But the same material can often be turned into different formats, and it’s all continual work in progress. So usually it’s better to err on the side of getting something done and off, getting it “in the pipeline” for publication, and moving on to something else while you wait to hear whether it’ll need more work or not.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related posts:

  1. Advice for environmental interdisciplinarians