Skip to main content

Writing - a "bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing"


I love this description of the writing process by Tom Shroder, Editor of the Washington Post Magazine:

I'm sure there are writers who don't find writing to be a bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing. I just don't happen to be one of them. Faced with a blank screen and a deadline for even the shortest, simplest piece, I am seized with the overwhelming desire to clean out my garage. Or do anything other than writing (up to and including root canal).

The problem seems to be standards. I have some. And I'm terrified I can't live up to them. I've found that to make myself write anything at all, I have to begin by lowering my sights, and simply try to write something bad. Don't even write, I tell myself, just type.


He goes on to introduce a piece on Ralph Ellison, who never finished his second book.

As his page count rose, so, too, did his standards. No matter who told him his work was brilliant, it was never brilliant enough for Ellison.


Actually, I like Tom Shroder's weekly "Editor's Notes". But I'm sure no matter how many times I told him they were brilliant, he'll still be cleaning his garage as the deadline approaches.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD):
After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD).I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, by Paul Gray and David E. Drew.

Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck with it …

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over.
If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome. 
Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic. 
This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energyMake you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduateMake you feel like you have nothing more to give. Cr…

The Second Holiday Writing Challenge for Academics

Here's a little boost for those who need a little kickstart to write over the holidays.  I first offered a Holiday Writing Challenge back in 2005, so I'd say it's about time to do it again.

Here's what you do: Post in the comment section:
what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily. Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadline pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done!

Whether you're a professor or a grad student, make sure you get a copy of the Dissertation Toolkit.  These tools will give you more information and tips for productive and creative writing.

 For those of you who have had trouble making yourself write, you may want to start with VERY short writing goals. Even 5 or 10 minutes will be enough to get you jumpstarted.  Don't go more than 25 or 30 minutes without a break.

Using …