Writing as Craft

For most academics, writing is serious work. Getting published, meeting deadlines, and winning grant funding is a matter of job security. When stressed and under pressure, many academics write from places of defense (against potential critics), fear (of failing to produce), or self-doubt (of their own ability or lack of authority). Few feel like they have the capacity to take risks in their writing.

Yet there is plenty of advice literature that suggests the opposite. Mastering the skill of writing requires lots of vulnerability—and experimentation. In Write No Matter What, Joli Jensen suggests that, in order to break through writer’s block, insecurities, or troubles with motivation, academics should approach their writing as a craft like any other:

Treating academic writing as a craft enables us to be more effective in both our writing and our thinking. It makes it more likely that we will give ourselves daily low-stress, high-reward contact with our project rather than becoming distracted, depressed, stuck, and blocked. It can restore us to “right size” when we find ourselves intimidated or arrogant. It helps us stay modest and hopeful rather than grandiose and insecure. It helps us focus on doing our project rather than on whatever good or bad outcomes we may imagine for it. (13)

When you pull out a first draft for editing, you might be tempted to slide into familiar feelings of despair or frustration. Alternatively, you might be resisting a revision because you fear losing control of a comfortable habit of writing. Having these kinds of emotional responses is normal—but it isn't constructive.

By framing your writing practice as a craft, you’ll begin to gain a healthy distance and perspective that might allow for more opportunities for experimentation and growth. This course introduces you to the craft of wordsmithing: like a blacksmith, you'll learn to wield a range of tools, and become skilled at removing the dross from the draft and hammering rough objects into sharp and shiny states.

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