Professors do a lot of writing, but that doesn’t mean that they are good at it. That’s a central point of Write No Matter What: Advice for Academics (University of Chicago Press). The author is Joli Jensen, the Hazel Rogers Professor of Communication at the University of Tulsa, where she founded and directs the Henneke Faculty Writing Program. Via email, she responded to questions about her new book.
Q: What do you consider to be the major obstacles that academics face in their writing?
A: The craft of academic writing has been needlessly mystified, so many of us feel shame and fear when our writing doesn’t go smoothly. But writing rarely goes smoothly! University life makes writing even more challenging by setting the stakes very high (“publish or perish”) and shrouding it in secrecy, while expecting excellent teaching and lots of service. My book offers faculty a variety of techniques to help them accept the realities of the academic environment; reduce writing anxiety; secure writing time, space and energy; recognize and overcome writing myths; and maintain writing momentum. I hope it helps to demystify the academic writing experience.
Q: Do you see particular challenges in some disciplines?
A: I do.The humanities, social sciences and sciences each offer somewhat different writing demands. In the humanities, research is usually individual and interpretive, so writing can feel like a lonely excursion into uncharted terrain. The challenge is to make an original, individual contribution in a vast sea of possible perspectives. In the sciences, the research process is more collaborative and data-driven, and writing can feel impersonal, formulaic and obligatory.
The challenge in the sciences is to juggle multiple collaborative writing projects, often at various stages of completion, in ways that keep grant money and publications flowing. The social sciences draw from both traditions, so social scientists can experience both the individualized anxiety of…