There are seemingly countless books about writing. When I was writing my dissertation, my adviser shared that when he was in grad school and starting his dissertation, he participated in writing workshops and read much about writing. He also said that one can use these resources to help with writing, but it is also possible that spending too much time on them can hinder the process. Meaning, too much effort to learn about writing does not replace writing itself.
However, many of us need something to jump start writing, overcome writer’s block, or to gain some helpful tips to continue. I’ve been looking through books about writing, not just for myself but to have ideas to recommend to others who are interested. I’m not reading them in their entirety, but skimming them to see if they are helpful for those writing in our profession.
I’m going to start posting some brief reviews about books that I hope you will find helpful.
Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write by Helen Sword
I came across this book when reading a blog that recommends books about academic writing (sorry, can’t remember where). It is an easy read, and I read the first few chapters fairly quickly.
This isn’t a book to keep on hand all the time, but instead one to look at as you start writing, whether a new or seasoned writer. Sword introduces a framework that any writer can customize to his or her own style. She specifically states this book provides no “ready-made blueprint,” but a flexible approach to planning and understanding one’s individual process. She describes the framework as four habits: behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional. All writers have these, it’s a matter of discovering them within themselves.
Much of Sword’s book is a compilation of writers’ descriptions of their practices based on interviews she conducted. These vignettes offer ideas as well as comfort; many writers share their struggles and how they overcome them (or try to).
Because I struggle with writing (as most of us do), I appreciate the concepts to help me identify how I can think about writing through assessing my habits and how to make them work for me. I especially like that it is not a strict prescription for writing, that it has something different for everyone.