Tag Archives: writing

August 19, 2012, 10:58 am

Belabored writing is better writing?

I have been half-heartedly working on a manuscript for a book chapter. It’s a chapter that I am perfectly qualified to write and I have things to say, and yet for some reason I have been entirely uninspired and have been procrastinating for quite some time. Finally I just started slogging through it, until I had something that looked like enough of a rough draft to send to Co-author. Co-author added some bits and made some edits and sent it back, and I reluctantly sat down with it again. To my surprise, Co-author didn’t really change much of my writing. And I am realizing that it isn’t really that bad. It’s quite serviceable, actually. It is just not easy going with the writing.

Spouse and I were commiserating about this phenomenon, and he added that when he really struggles with writing something, when it comes really slowly and it feels like everything you are writing is crap, his…

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June 19, 2012, 3:05 pm

Pretty Note-taking

Photo by Flickr user donabelandewen

I think it’s fair to say that I am a bit obsessed with the art of note-taking. I have spent more time (and money) than anyone should browsing notebooks and pens online and in stores. I buy Moleskine notebooks in bulk. And when I saw this book on an exhibitor’s table at a conference recently, I knew I had to buy it. Field Notes on Science and Nature includes essays by fourteen field scientists on how they take notes in the field, with scans of actual pages from their notebooks. Many of them include beautiful sketches of plants and animals. I love looking at other people’s notebooks – I like to see how they organize their thinking and what sorts of things they notice. But it also makes me feel envious and inadequate.

In meetings, at seminars and talks, and…

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January 12, 2012, 4:47 pm

Blogger’s Block

When I moved my blog over here to The Chronicle, one of the things I was worried about was keeping up with expectations. What on earth was I going to write about? My fellow Chronicle bloggers are a pretty high-level crowd, always writing about Important Issues and stuff. I do that sometimes too, but sometimes I just want to tell you about a funny thing my cat did or post a cocktail recipe. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right in this venue.


This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post.

And so one thing didn’t lead to another, until I had full-blown blogger’s block. I would come up with vaguely interesting ideas, start drafting a post, and… well, that just seems too dumb. Or too short. Or dumb AND short. And now the blog has sat here for weeks, ignored and unloved. The best way to…

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May 24, 2011, 9:18 pm


My MacBook Air is in the shop (sad!) because a couple of weeks ago, the hinge randomly cracked. Turns out it is a known issue and Apple is fixing it for free, which is good, but I had to have it shipped to Apple to be fixed, which is less good. I can’t whine too much, though, because I do have four Mac laptops, so I am using an older one now, a five-year-old MacBook that I haven’t used much in the past year. All of this is a really long and pointless introduction to tell you that I stumbled upon some links that I bookmarked almost a year ago, some of which were bookmarked in order to look at them later (and therefore I really had no idea what they were).

One of them was a link for 750words.com. I had no idea what that was, so I clicked it – and turns out it is a super awesome website where you are encouraged to write at least 750 words a day – privately. The setup is really lovely, it’s…

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March 29, 2011, 7:06 am

Revise and resubmit

This manuscript just got a revise-and-resubmit decision, with generally quite positive comments. Hooray! And wow, that was fast. I’ve published in this journal before and I like it quite a lot – and on top of all its other positive qualities, it has a double blind review process.

Also, the manuscript that I worked on during Research Week is nearly finished, and I am planning to send it to co-authors by the end of this week. I have more to say about my writing process on that one, but it will have to wait – it’s time to get ready for work. I’m absurdly pleased with myself at this moment…

March 3, 2011, 10:54 am

Looking for a way out of the late winter blahs

Ugh, I am suffering from ennui. I don’t have a damn thing to complain about – except this endless freezing weather – but I can’t seem to get my act together lately. Nothing is particularly urgent at the moment, which really doesn’t help. I have all kinds of things I could be doing, but I don’t feel like it. I can’t even get excited about my shoe collection (too slippery outside, nobody notices anyway, why bother), and have worn the same boring black loafers three days this week. That’s a bad sign.

Next week is spring break at my university. This would be a wonderful time to go to Florida and sit on a beach… but alas, I am not a student and I still have to work. However, the boss will coincidentally be away next week, and I miraculously have no meetings whatsoever on my calendar for next week! NONE. That never happens. NEVER.

So, I am declaring next week Research Week! I …

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February 21, 2011, 12:45 pm

In review!

Well, what do you know! The delinquent co-authors got their comments to me.  I suggested to PA that I could move a project that was important to PA to the top of my priority list – once PA got comments on that manuscript back to me, of course. And PA sent the comments back in less than two hours. Then I used the fact that PA had already sent comments to shame GS into sending comments quickly too. And now the paper is submitted!! Hooray!

February 16, 2011, 7:13 am

Waiting for co-authors

At the moment, I do not have any articles in review, which pains me. I do have four that are pretty close to getting out there (or back out there, as the case may be for a few of them) – two are papers on which I am the first author, and two on which I am a co-author. All four of these have two co-authors in common – my postdoctoral adviser (PA), and a grad student (GS) in PA’s lab.

PA is notoriously busy and important, though well-meaning, and it always takes a long time for PA to get around to reading and commenting on drafts. I won’t lie, it pisses me off – but I try to remember that PA puts a lot of work into reading carefully and making helpful comments. Also PA has been around a long time and has hundreds of publications, and my research is somewhat outside of PA’s main research interest. So, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

GS takes even longer to get drafts back to me. …

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November 29, 2010, 3:58 pm

Paper finished!

Woo hoo, I did it!! I just sent my manuscript off to my co-authors. I am so freaking excited that I wrote this whole thing in just under one month. I kind of can’t wait to get started on the next one.

Even more exciting, I managed to do this during a really stressful time. We have a major annual deadline this week – and the report that is due on that deadline is primarily my responsibility. That report is now pretty much finished (Hmm, I wonder if I should add it to my November word count? That’s another ~30,000 words), and I submit it on Wednesday. THEN on Thursday I am giving an hour-long seminar on my research to a rather large group of people. I also reviewed 10 grant proposals for a private foundation and reviewed one or two manuscripts for journals, interviewed candidates for an administrative position, traveled to a workshop, and traveled for a family Thankgiving, all in the…

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November 12, 2010, 10:11 am

Two weeks

It’s been two full work weeks since I began this month’s writing project… and I just printed out a nearly-presentable draft. I have to fill in some missing information here and there, make a new table, write the figure captions, write an abstract, and re-run one statistical test on SPSS because I forgot the non-significant p-value… but it’s just about done. I am stunned.

To be fair, this project has been in the works for years, I have written about it in multiple grant proposals, and I have presented preliminary data in talks several times, so I have been thinking about it for a long time. So the writing flowed much more easily than some other papers I have written in the past. But two weeks? This is unprecedented for me. Am I getting better at this? Was I wrong when I thought I couldn’t produce publications at a fast rate… or did I just get lucky this time?