Tuesday, October 25, 2016

All writing is real writing

I find myself ranting on twitter on the same topic about once a month or so, and have decided to finally sit down and write up my thoughts, so that I can just post a link to this post rather than regurgitate the same things again and again.

The topic is quite simple, namely: All writing is real writing.

I've written before about tips for productivity, and about my New Year's resolution of submitting one item per month or twelve items over the course of the year. And I've written about how I write about writing rather than actually writing, sometimes. In the first of these posts, I sort of touched upon this topic when I said:

Technique no. 5 is simple: writing breeds writing. The more you write, the more you will write. I give myself a lot of low-stakes opportunities for writing, via blogs. There's this blog, of course; but I also write on a regular basis for the blog for the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, the M-Phi blog (though less frequently there than I'd like), and to give myself a way to exploring some of the ideas on my list of projects that aren't necessarily going to end up as real papers, the newly created Medieval Logic and Semantics blog.

But this tells only part of the story. Writing breeds writing, and this covers not only writing for blogs but it covers writing conference abstracts, it covers writing fiction or poetry, it covers writing rambling emails to your parents. The more you do write, the more you will write: Yes, but that is only part of the story.

The other part is that All writing counts. All writing is real writing. Don't kid yourself in to thinking it isn't, that only the academic journal article or the full conference proceedings or the chapter in an edited volume or even the elusive actual book counts, and that anything else is somehow not writing. On the one hand, this dismisses the value that the process of writing has, regardless of what the outcome is, the way in which it forces you to clarify your thoughts and the way in which it keeps you in good writing practice. On the other hand, you never know what will come of this writing that "doesn't count". A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who had read a post I'd written on the DMNES blog back in spring, asking for permission to reprint it as an article in the newsletter she edits for an Australian organization that studies surnames. It's a non-profit thing, and she apologised that payment couldn't be offered, but she thought their readers would enjoy and benefit from reading my work. Since I'd already written the blog post, I knew it would take me only maybe an hour or so to convert it into something that could function as a standalone piece in print, and having it appear in this newsletter means my research will reach a much wider audience than it would if only academics read it. This is a win in my book!

Another win: Just over two years ago I set myself a challenge to write 400 words (exactly) of fiction per day. I made it about two months before the daily streak faltered, but I continued to write regularly until I reached 200 days/80,000 words. Over summer, I saw a call for submissions for a speculative fiction anthology; I rifled through those 80,000 words and found 7,000 that made a story and submitted it. Last week I received notification that the story was accepted and will be published next year sometime. So, it's not peer reviewed. So, there's no argument in it. (Well, except that there is...). So, there's no footnotes or bibliography or citations. That is no reason why this should not count as writing. It's writing, it's real, and it's going to be published (squee!).

It's all real writing. It all counts. (Even this blog post counts.) Never let yourself be fooled into thinking otherwise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

No longer merely thinking about writing a book

A few months ago I was thinking about writing a book. Now, I'm no longer merely thinking about it, I'm doing it. Or rather, I'm writing three. Because why bother doing anything by halves?

But the book I'm writing about here is the book I was thinking about (in so far as you can think about nonexistent objects) writing in the linked post: A textbook to cover all my logic teaching needs from the 1st year intro course to the 3rd year advance course and (hopefully someday) graduate level courses. What I've got now is a mishmash of notes written for previous courses, so there is some incomplete material, some duplicative, and some things which are just purely missing. The goal over the course of this year is to rewrite sections as I need to teach from them, so that at least a large portion of the book is drafted by the end of the year.

If you are interested, you can following here: What Is Logic?, where new drafts will be posted as they are available. Today's substantial rewrite focused on Chapter 6, Aristotle's syllogistic.