Blaise Pascal, apparently, wrote in a letter in 1657: “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte,” or "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” The expressions, often misattributed to Mark Twain, means it is harder to write in a few words what could be written in a few pages.Read More
I research economic and environmental anthropology and resource extraction in Colombia and New Brunswick. This is my personal blog.
Many of these Writing Tips have been about how to get the energy and motivation to make writing a habit. I’ve had less to say on how to write well. I have some tips for that, too.
One challenge that I have in revising is that when I read my words on a screen, my mind fills in the blanks: I read what should be there and not what is there. I skip words that don’t fit, and I add words that are missing.Read More
Guilt is a common experience of grad school: If you’re not working and thinking about “The Dissertation” or “The Essay” or whatever you feel like you should be. You feel guilty because your not 'working.' You think about ‘the writing’ all the time. You revise in your dreams. You worry you’re not working enough.Read More
Writing is hard work. The first five minutes are often the most difficult. But, if there’s a deadline looming, a dissertation due, or a monograph months behind schedule, sometimes keeping at it is even harder. You’ll need some writing tricks to push through, especially when stopping while the going is good is not an option.Read More
Today will be short because it’s Friday and Fridays are busy at Yale: I have meetings—or preparation for meetings—from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. How to write when you have no time? How to write when you are too busy?
Easy: Write less and start earlier.Read More
When I did my Ph.D., I used to think anything that did not push my text was a case of—self-diagnosed—"thesis procrastination." Procrastination is many things, and it might be helpful, but my self-diagnosis was misguided. I was wrong because I included reading for pleasure in the list of what counted for procrastination.Read More
Slowly, I am learning to separate the time to think about a writing project from the time to write the project. When I write, I want to focus on the words and images and people and not get lost with questions of structure. Now, I make an outline.Read More
The hardest part of any task is sometimes the first five minutes. Starting sucks. The last thing you want to do is make that initial push harder. So, try to decide on the day's task before sitting down to start on it.Read More
I got a lot of work done in January by doing one task a day. Writing a book is not “one” task, it is the result of hundreds of smaller tasks. When I thought about the book as a whole, I got quickly lost in what Jessica Abel calls the dark forest. By concentrating on doing just one thing to move the book forward and then stopping, I was able to come back to writing with renewed energy every day.Read More