ten ways to beat the fear of writing | pat thomson

Many people find it hard to start writing. One of the possible reasons is fear. Fear of what readers might think. Fear of being able to write stylishly enough. Fear that the writing won’t measure up to your own high standards. Fear of not being able to get an argument together. Fear that there won’t be enough words. Or too many.

That fear can be debilitating. Usually what’s needed is a combination of something like pomodoros and prompts just to get going, plus support from others and giving yourself a good talking to. If you’re at the talking to myself about the fear stage, then what…

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reading! you’re meant to be writing | pat thomson

It might seem strange to be writing about reading during #AcWriMo. But I was reminded, at a recent writing retreat get-together, of the close and symbiotic relationship between writing and reading.

One of our group had sent a draft paper to mentors for feedback. The comments suggested that she needed to do some more reading in order to make the paper ready for entrée into a scholarly conversation. But how, she asked, did she find time for reading when she was already very busy with work?

There were various answers to her question, but two have stuck in my mind as worth noting this month….

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being ‘critical’ – starting the phd | pat thomson

At the start of the PhD, your supervisor will almost undoubtedly ask you to critically evaluate some literatures. This reading is so that you can prepare a more detailed proposal than you initially submitted. And it you are doing courses at the start of your PhD, you will probably be asked to critically evaluate a paper, or two.

So, what does being critical actually mean?Is there a specific academic meaning of critical?

In short, yes.

Being academically critical doesn’t mean tearing strips off something. That’s the way that critical is usually understood. If I say Fred is a critical…

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choosing your words – starting the phd | pat thomson

Beginning academic writers often look for academic phrase banks and word lists to help them write ‘right’. 

The most popular of these is the Manchester Academic Phrase Bank – now also available in print. There are also general lists of common academic words and lists of academic synonyms and antonyms (words that can be substituted for each other to avoid repetition). And there are compilations of sentence stems – for instance this set referring to writing the methods section of a journal article:
(my method) analyses … in order to …
(my method) looks at how … and suggests …
(my method)…

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it’s that month again… | pat thomson

Remember remember the month of November
Its #acwrimo. It’s time to get shot
Of the usual reason
You use in this season
For failing to write – and write quite a lot.

Whether words or a book, by hook or by crook
Set a target. But also make sure
That you tell all your peeps
“I won’t lose my sleeps
And I’ll write what I’ve promised – and more…”


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professors of the poison pen | pat thomson

Paul Stein’s 1939 film, The Poison Pen, is set in a small English village whose residents receive anonymous letters alleging sexual and moral misbehaviour. The recipients become increasingly angry and bent on revenge. A formerly quiet and placid place becomes a hotbed of paranoia and, eventually, violence.

Something not dissimilar happens in the academy. The poison pen is at work there too. In the academy, professors of the poison pen tarnish reputations and white ant research projects. They cast doubts intended to unsettle and do down their competition. Poison pen professors not only cover…

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the limits of writing advice | pat thomson

There’s a lot of understanding now about writing. There didn’t used to be. But over the last couple of decades there’s been a lot more talk and writing about academic writing. I see a lot of writing advice around on social media and in university writing workshops. And that’s fantastic. Writing is getting a hearing. More people are learning strategies that they can use to support their own writing.

Most of us know for instance that free writing – also called writing without a parachute, or pomodoros, or shut up and write – can be a very powerful way to interrupt unhelpful habits such as…

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