How to Cope With Clueless Questions, Crass Comments, and Crazy Conjectures

Note: I'm re-upping this one from 2013, as it seems a useful follow-up to the Robert Caro post. Also see this piece on Advice for Academic Couples (excerpted from my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.) - Best, Hillary Oh, the things people say to writers! “What do you do?” “What do you write?” “Is there any money in that?” “Where have you been published?” “How’s the book coming along?” (Alt: “When will you be done with that thing?”) “Why don’t you just sit down over a weekend and just finish it?” “You should write like Stephen King!” “You should put a vampire in it!” “Why don’t you just go on [popular TV show]?” And, the ever popular, “When are you going to get a real job?” These are the kinds of (often, but not always) well-meaning questions, comments, and conjectures that bedevil writers. A little planning can help a lot in terms of coping, however. Below are strategies for: (a) increasing your tolerance for difficult questions; (b) maintaining conversational … [Read more...]

Useful Apps for Mac and iOS Users

  Ph.D. student Reid Leamaster reviews some useful writing productivity apps, including several for taking notes and organizing information. His latest review is an app called Flowstate, which, if you stop writing before the end of your designated interval erases everything you've written. Yes, you've read that right. Sounds crazy and coercive to me, but someone must have thought it was a good idea. … [Read more...]

Guest Post: Tips for Thesis Writers: How to Get to the First Draft

Terrific advice for all writers from Ph.D. student Nolanne Chang, reprinted with kind permission. Here's her blog. She sounds very empowered as she works to create a context that supports her writing productivity! - Hillary Previously in my posts I’ve outlined my feelings on the general structure of writing a science thesis, and what the style and substance of each section should be. In this set of posts I’ll discuss my retrospective advice on the easiest way of writing a thesis. 1) Write a Literature Review your first year Quite a large portion of my literature review/introduction section of my thesis was written in the first year of my PhD. In my second year this was easily cut, pasted, reformatted, tweaked, and with the addition of a few paragraphs made up the introduction section to my transfer report (standard mid-way thesis in England). In the third and fourth years, I updated the original literature review to include the latest papers and to incorporate changes in the experiments that had … [Read more...]