Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers
vol. 3, no. 2
This issue marks the two-year anniversary of the existence of Flourish! I’ve learned a lot by putting some words of encouragement together every month, and I hope you have learned and been encouraged too. Sometimes writing can be a lonely process, it is good for all of us to see that we are not alone in the struggle. Since Flourish seems to be working, I’m not going to be making any big changes, but I am going to start adding a regular section called Productivity Research. In it, I will focus on what we can learn from the research about how scholars work and what behaviors and patterns correlate with productivity, advancement, and … happiness. Look for it!
Readers Write In
A Flourish reader wrote in with a recommendation:
I’ve been meaning to write you for almost a year now — ever since Flourish entered my writing life. Every time I see the word “Flourish” pop up in my mailbox, I feel that same flutter of excitement I did when email was brand new to me, and it would chime “you’ve got mail.” Getting your words of wisdom always gives me a new boost of energy. Your latest musings on resolutions caught my attention since I reread my resolutions from last year, and I did not accomplish a single one, including “Finish book by March 31”! As a friend of mine said, at least I would not have to dream up a new set, I could simply recycle the old list! But, as you stated, those vague resolutions are meaningless, so I’ve come up with a new incentive system I thought I’d share with others. I call it my “sexy dress fund.” Now that I am writing all the time, I’m feeling very unsexy because all I wear is sweats. So the idea of ever wearing a dress again, let alone a sexy one, feels like a nice thing. Every day before I officially begin my writing, I break my work for the day into a series of smaller tasks. They are generally tasks I think I can accomplish within 30 to 60 minutes, or 90 at the most. For example, read a section of my chapter draft and make editorial notes. Or, if I have the notes done, then, rewrite a section. I then estimate the amount of time it should take and set a kitchen timer (I occasionally cheat and add in an extra one or two minutes as a cushion). If I finish within the allotted time, I give myself a dollar. I have a beautiful wood antique box and I physically put the dollar in each time I meet my deadline. I still belt out a cheer every time I make it. While the money I have now will only buy me a Barbie doll size dress, I anticipate that the fund will grow over time (even though I did not earn a single dollar today!) One of the big benefits of this system is that it forces me to gain a more accurate understanding of how much time I need for certain tasks. It has convinced me that I have been working as fast as I possibly can, which is VERY SLOW. But this system has convinced me that this slowness is an integral part of how my mind works — and so I’m more willing to accept that now. I would previously beat myself up for being slow. And of course, the anxiety about my slowness has made me even slower. I think that by accepting my slowness, I will actually become quicker!
Almost twenty years ago, a very famous scholar wrote the following:
Someone has written that there are three stages in the reception of a new, or at any rate unfamiliar, idea. The first reaction is “Ridiculous! Preposterous! Everyone knows that the opposite is the truth—it’s been universally acknowledged for decades, if not centuries. This is only brash young X shooting off his mouth. He’s a wild man, just trying to shock, looking for publicity. No attention need be paid to his bizarre notion, which he probably doesn’t really believe himself.” … Every effort is made to see that the disturbing new proposition is shelved and ignored. The second stage, a fair number of years later, goes something like this: “It’s true that X has dug up a certain amount of evidence and advanced some interesting arguments to support his view. Nevertheless, these can and should be answered, and the weight of informed opinion will in the end certainly come down on the side of the traditional view.” Eventually, however, the final stage may run along these lines: “Well, of course, old X was right. But everyone really knew it all along. It’s so obvious that anyone considering the matter must have seen it at first glance, but no except X thought it worth making a fuss about, so he really doesn’t deserve much credit for publicizing something so self-evident.” –Donald Greene, The Politics of Samuel Johnson (Athens: University of Georgia, 1990), ix.
News from the Editor
Last month I promised some big news. Well, here it is: I got a book contract!
Sage Publications offered me a contract to publish my Writing and Publishing the Academic Article: A Step-by-Step Guide for Graduate Students and Junior Faculty to Sending Your Essay to a Peer-Reviewed Journal in Twelve Weeks. I have to deliver the final manuscript to Sage by December 2007 and the book should be out in summer 2008.
The team at Sage has been terrific. From the day I emailed them with the book proposal to the day they made their decision to offer me a contract was six weeks! That’s some kind of record. Although other publishers were interested, they just didn’t move fast enough. The executive editor at Sage, John Szilagyi, a long-time veteran of academic publishing, is thrilled about the book and Sage has a whole team of people who will be working with me on finalizing the book’s look and marketing. They all predict that it is going to be big. I am just eager to get the book out at last! I don’t have a web page about the book up yet, but I will be posting more information online, including a table of contents, this summer. So, if you’ve been waiting for the book, it is going to be just a bit longer, but it is coming!