Writing Unveiled: Roundtable Reflections III

To be or not to be a ‘writer’?

Well, Roundtable III left us feeling either ambivalent about whether we – as academics – are indeed ‘writers’, or adamant that we are definitely NOT writers. None of us felt categorically that we were ‘writers’.

Quite a lot to unpack, here ….

I’ll start with the feeling of ambivalence:

  • we ARE ‘writers’ in the sense that we HAVE TO write to be academics, our jobs depend on it and so does our success/promotion (from writing undergraduate essays to publishing in high impact journals). In other words, we can’t remain in the academy unless we write, and do it well.
  • We are NOT ‘writers’ in the sense that we also do other things: we teach, we read, we think, we do research, we do admin.

The adamant feeling that we are definitely NOT writers can be summed up like this: our raison d’être is not to write, but to do research. In theory, that doesn’t need writing up because it could be presented orally or diagrammatically, or someone else could even write it for us (and, clearly, there is a market for this).

I am suddenly reminded of this little gem of academic/scientific writing: would Watson and Crick’s discoveries have had the same timely impact and widespread resonance had the authors not also considered both the modus and the locus of communicating their findings? Discuss ….

We all agreed we do writing, though. And we all said that it is probably best to think of ourselves as ‘writers’ at least during the actual act of writing because by identifying ourselves as ‘writers’ we are more likely to make autonomous decisions about rhetoric and style. We also agreed that to become better academic writers it might be a good idea to actually enjoy the process and product of writing.

Another theme also emerged, namely the need to feel confident. We seemed to be saying that we are less likley to write when we are not feeling ‘confident’.

So, what does it mean to feel ‘confident’ in an academic writing context? Is it the confidence that comes from knowing that we can write (i.e. we are good at it), or is it some other kind of confidence, such as knowing that we have something interesting to say?

Perhaps we can unravel this next week …. any thoughts on possible prompts relating to ‘confidence’ in writing?

I’ll have a think, too.



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