Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Welcome to week two of the November Writing Challenge! We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s wonderful sunshine and rewarded your efforts last week with some time off. Today is the beginning of a new week, and thus, it’s the ideal moment to tweak your goals or plan of action. It’s a fresh start, so if things got off a bit slow, jump back aboard the writing train today!

If you have not had a chance yet, please complete this short Writing Challenge update survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/52HKKBXWe’d love to hear how your writing is progressing and how you think we can better support you – both during the Writing Challenge, and into the future.

Today’s guest blogger is Professor Sue Martin. Sue has published prolifically in the fields of nineteenth and twentieth century literature, Victorian literature, feminist theory and cultural studies. Alongside her research work, Sue is also Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. In this piece, Sue reflects upon the ways in which different types of academic work require different orientations to writing. She reminds us that writing is contextually specific and is shaped by the intellectual environments in which we find ourselves, the physical spaces that we write in, the nature of the content that we must communicate and the character of the conversations we hope to take part in. If academia is an increasingly dynamic and complex profession, in turn, modern academic identities must be adaptive and responsive to the new physical and intellectual locations in which we work. 

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Professor Sue Martin

It took me some time to encounter the idea that writing might not be central to all academic work. This is because I work, or have mostly worked, in English departments. Academics in the Humanities might sometimes think they have trouble writing, or might struggle for the perfect term, but for many of them thinking is writing: the two come together. I was quite surprised when La Trobe’s Borchardt Library opened a café called ‘Writer’s Block’ (a name which I immediately blocked from my mind) because it seemed like such a potential mozz (mozz: Colloquialnoun 1. a hex.–verb (t) 2. to hex.3. to inconvenience; hinder – Macquarie Dictionary) that I thought no researcher would venture near it, let alone eat there. 

University Research Services offer academics across the Faculties assistance with grant writing – with shaping and communicating the content, methodology, and importance of their projects, which is very helpful. 
In my faculty, however, the writing, and the elucidation of the epistemology, the plan, and the concepts in words tends to come more easily than the budgeting and interacting with the on-line budget software. It has been more of a struggle to convince Research Services that just as a professor good at calculations may need assistance with words, a professor good with words may need assistance with calculations.
This is not to suggest that Humanities researchers know how to write grant applications, but their research generally involves and requires a facility with writing. Writing is not their problem. In my own case, I have, sadly, learnt to write a very good grant application (apart from the budget), while unlearning some of the better skills of writing up the sustained research which comes from contemplation and deep study, rather than frenzied and scattered grant and research administration. I am looking forward to going back to some slow writing, for just a little while…

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What is a writing voice? And what does yours sound like? Does it change depending on the contexts in which you write? How does the physical place of writing shape your voice? Taking some time to unpack the ways we work can be an enlightening activity.

Have a read of this great little blog post, written by Kylie Budge, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne. She surveys some recent scholarship which suggests that situation and context play a significant role in fostering creative cognition. Also, here's some tips that will help you to create a great home workspace.

You might like to use the Writing Challenge as an opportunity to shake up your writing routine. Come along to RED Writing 'Hood 'Shut Up and Write', a weekly group writing session organised by the RED Unit. 'Shut Up and Write' is held on the Bendigo campus on Wednesdays from 10-12 in HHS2 331 and 332, at Bundoora on Thursdays from 9:30am–noon in the Charles La Trobe Lounge and at Albury Wodonga on Thursdays from  9:30–noon in the Conference Room and Fridays from 9:30–noon next to the Library Training Room. All the details you need are available on the RED Unit website: http://www.latrobe.edu.au/research/red 

Use the comments section below to tell us about where you write best (and, of course, where you write worst!).

Good-luck with week two of the Challenge! Happy writing!

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