Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Writing Process Reengineering

There is an important link between writing effectively and writing efficiently, between the optimal use of your mind and the optimal use of your time. Yes, I find myself sounding more and more like a management consultant these days. This week I'm even working on the outline of a whole-day organizational development seminar for university departments that want to improve their international publication record.

Here's how it could look.

  1. Introduction to international publication
  2. Sample workshop: close editing of a short sample of writing produced by a member of the department
  3. Analysis of a published paper in a relevant field that has not been written by a member of the department
  4. (Lunch)
  5. Master class: feedback on a paper written by a member of the department
  6. Guided discussion: the department as a writing environment
  7. Wrap-up

While a given department could obviously bring in a writing consultant like me to facilitate such a day, it could also assign members of its own faculty to these tasks. The important thing is to raise the problem of writing as an explicit issue and to begin to talk about how the department's organizational structures can support a writing environment. (If your department wants to give me a try, my contact information can be found here.)

The discussion about the department as a writing environment can be used to imagine the life of a typical researcher over 17 weeks, including a one-week "reading break" (i.e., 16 working weeks and one week's vacation). How much time can realistically be devoted to writing? How can that time be organized? How many 3-hour writing sessions are available per week? What could those sessions be used for?

The first step towards reengineering your writing processes, both individually and collectively, is to get a good sense of your resource situation. That mainly means knowing how much time you have. Once that is done you can begin to set some realistic goals. And you can then begin to help each other to achieve them.

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