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.



2 thoughts on “Writing Unveiled: Roundtable Reflections III”

  1. To be or not to be a writer?, this is a tough question…. this is difficult especially when important writers say: I am not a writer… after hearing this statement I think about myself… what about me? am I a writer?……Maybe a writer is someone who loves writing or someone who writes in order to be a PhD. Finally I have not answer to this question.

    Hector Reyes

  2. I’ve just been marking some L2 student research reports and, interestingly, the ‘writers’ refer to themselves as ‘the author’ as in “This author argues/believes that…”. What’s the difference between ‘author’ and ‘writer’, then? Is there any meaningful difference and if so, could the ‘writers’ of these reports have made a deliberate choice? Or did they copy this from another source? Or follow classroom/textbook instructions?

    Interestingly, again, none of these writers have used the discursive ‘I’, despite the evidence to suggest that it has a rich repertoire of uses and that it is not there just to indicate authority or stance. It is also widely used to simply indicate how a paper is organised (which has less to do with stance and more to do with signalling/interaction): https://www.academia.edu/3617725/Molinari_J._2013_Exploring_Writer_identities_on_a_general_pre-sessional_EAP_course_in_Professional_and_Academic_English_Journal_of_the_English_for_Special_Purposes_Interest_Group_Iatefl_Issue_41_24-29

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