July 11, 2013

The hidden price of isolation (and 5 ways to avoid paying that price)

If you’re like most people, you will find that lack of connection with other academics combined with the lack of structure in the summer months will actually reduce your writing productivity.  Without the input, accountability, and power of connection with others, it’s too easy to get sidetracked and not to reach your summer writing goals.

Since writing is ultimately the final common path for completing your dissertation or for publishing and getting tenure, it’s catastrophic to your career not to write productively when you have the chance.

In this post, we offer some additional ways to find those connections and how to use them to energize your writing.

1. Join a writing group on campus.  

Many campuses have ongoing groups of professors or graduate students who are looking for new members.  Some groups meet and write alongside each other, while others are more focused on sharing and critiquing the work.  There are groups that emphasize regular writing and writing productivity, and those that focus on the content of what you are writing.  Decide which will work better for you and try to find (or start) a group that fits.

2. Find a group online.  

If it’s geographically unfeasible to join a face-to-face group, try going online.  You'll likely be more anonymous online and won't bump into competitors (this is a concern that many have, although I wish academia were NOT so competitive).  The asynchronous nature of online groups makes it possible for you to log in whenever you want and from wherever you are, a plus for busy academics.  The majority of people who try them find them incredibly useful.  Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that the AWC (Academic Writing Club) provides everything you need in an online community.


3. Renew connections with long-distance colleagues.  

Remember that awesome friend you had during your master’s or PhD program?  What about that professor who liked your work? Keep track of where these people are and what they’re doing.  You never know when you’ll need a recommendation from one of them, when you’ll want someone to read your last chapter, or when you'll need a collaborator.  Reconnect and rejuvenate.

4. Take advantage of conferences.  

Conferences can be good ways of finding like-minded scholars.  When you see a good presentation or hear a particularly helpful comment, follow up afterwards.  Meet for coffee before the end of the conference or get the person’s email address and reach out later.  These types of connections can be very exciting.  Don’t be afraid to initiate them.

5. What is the 5th way to connect with other academics?  

See our Recommended Reading section below!**

What if you’re a lone ranger?  
What if you work better individually? There’s nothing wrong with this, of course.  In fact, academics often excel when they can stay heads-down and focused.  But after awhile, even the most introverted writers need company.  We all need people to talk to, someone to reinforce the importance of our writing time and to listen to our ideas.  That’s when it’s good to have at least one other person to team up with, ideally someone who is not a competitor. This other pair of eyes and ears can help encourage you and help you keep perspective.  It’s hard enough being an academic.  Don’t do it alone!

Don’t wait to share

A final note:  A common problem among academics is that they put off sharing their work until it is almost perfect.  This is a mistake.  Share early, even if it’s to get someone’s input on an idea.  Learn from the more informal help you get from interacting early and often about your work.  You’ll reap the rewards of increased productivity and satisfying collegiality.

Recommended Reading:**

“Instead of seeing an academic colleague as a potential professional competitor, threat or even enemy, the power of we in academia means seeing them as potential collaborator and even friend.”

This very short but enlightening piece in the Higher Education Network explores how blogging actually helps academics engage with others. http://tinyurl.com/blogcolleagues.

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