Naa Yaa Asantewaa and the Ashanti!
Ekiah Productions - Warrior Queen
I think creativity and productivity seem to increase most during the calm after the storm. Last weekend I had an epiphany. I was looking for blogs related to publishing and graduate school and stumbled across The Thesis Whisperer. After just having submitted my first article, I knew there had to be a more streamlined process to writing than I was accustomed to. During my search I came across a great post called "How to Write Faster". The title got me right away. After reading the first 10 seconds I was hooked and started clicking every link available. There were tips on creating ready-made phrases, a verb bank, and best of all, a synthesis matrix. I’ll admit, I’d never heard of a synthesis matrix but it seemed to make a lot of sense. I’ve been trying to find a way to condense the information I pull from articles into a database but haven’t been able to figure it out until now. That’s when it hit me: the goal is not necessarily to study and refine the final product but to focus your attention on refining the process.
When I start writing I envision the final product. I attempt to outline what the final paper will look like and fill in the blanks. Then I proofread at least twice: once to try and find where I can expand, then again to find out what I need to subtract. During both reads I end with grammar. However, I learned from reading the blog that I need to try and focus studying the process of writing more than the actual paper itself. If I can outline the paper while I’m reading and doing the research, I’ll have a much stronger advantage when it comes time to actually writing.
At a workshop this week I received the advice that a good writer needs to read good writing. Unfortunately academics are not the best writers, as few are actually taught how to write well and many are accustomed to writing for their specific fields. The presenter at the workshop advised students to read The New Yorker because they have three grammaticians on full-time staff, allowing them to produce some of the best writing in the game.
I’m going to test out some these techniques for my next writing project. Now if I can only find a way to read faster …
This semester has been hella busy. When I began planning this past summer I failed to account for the unexpected opportunities that would arise. I’m currently teaching my first in course on Pan-Africanism, enrolled in 12 credit hours, working part-time at the Oral History Program on campus, blogging for Gradhacker, hosting a diversity competition, and I presented two separate papers at two conferences neither of which was related to my dissertation research — I’ve already noted never to do that again! With all the work and stress and I can say that this has already been my most productive semester in graduate school and has taught me a great deal about time management. It has also had a tremendous boost for my creativity and helped me think outside of the box.
This weekend I successfully submitted by first article for publication based off the research I did this past summer at Harvard University’s archives and at Howard University’s archives last year. The article was short — only 4,000 words — which forced me to really focus my argument and served as a great exercise in publication writing. If everything works out the article should be available in the 2014 issue of the Archaeology Review from Cambridge.
Now that the article is out of the way, I can focus on writing grant applications, homework for classes, upcoming conference papers, and churning out more publications. The greatest take away from this semester so far:_ more work leads to more opportunities which leads to more work so anticipate nothing and plan for everything at the same time_.
Great Zimbabwe, 2012. Copyright Julian Glover (no, not that one!), all rights reserved.
In June 1929 there was a general election in South Africa that was fought – and won – on race grounds. General Hertzog’s National Party swept to victory using the slogan of ‘black peril’, and South…
My apologies for a being away for so long. As you can guess I’ve been swamped with work, research, conferences, and teaching. Just to bring everyone back up to speed:
As a result I’ve been doing a lot traveling. In the past month I road tripped from Florida to Mississippi, flew to Virginia, and will be traveling to Oklahoma this week. I’ve doubled the time I can drive uninterrupted – thanks to cruise control and a good radio – and learned how to stay productive on the road.
Balancing all of these responsibilities has been a learning experience. Most importantly, I have learned the importance of staying organized. I recently started using Trello to keep track of different projects and switched to Any.DO as my designated note-taking app. Additionally I started using voice notes on my phone to take notes while I’m driving.
I also learned the importance of taking naps during the day. I have found that I am most productive and creative between 11:00pm and 3:00am. While everyone is asleep, I can multitask and think creatively - by the way exercise and creative thinking go hand in hand because they both require discipline. However when it comes to reading, I read the best in the morning before 9:00am. Unfortunately I teach at 8:30am and therefore I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle my days with my most productive times. If possible, this semester is going to be last semester of coursework. While professors have been accommodating, I find myself putting off valuable work to complete a reading for a class or writing a reflection paper that I probably won’t use again. In hopes of not loosing track of my initial goals, I’m going to commit to a post per week. Keep an eye on tumblr.