On writing

A beautiful description of writing experiences…

‘Like many other researchers, I write things down to ‘know
what I think, when I see what I write’, similar to Karl Weick’s famous
sense-making recipe. My challenge is that I write in two different iterations,
so to speak. I write the ‘official paper’ in a word file (like this text), but
I also write bits and pieces or even long sentences and fully-formed arguments
in emails, text messages, on notepads and in the back of black notebooks, on
post-its put on the pages of printed-out journal articles and in the margins of
books, as if I am coating it with a layer of my own thoughts. I write in all
these places as I go about my everyday work whether or not I am ‘writing’ a paper
or not. But then when I am writing a paper, I find that whole arguments
have already been made and can be lifted off these different material artefacts
and into the second iteration of writing: the text in the word file.


As a rule, I know that I have never finished writing a text
just because the word file is done. This is merely the initial layer of
thoughts put into words and spread onto the page in a first layer. I know this,
because at this point in the process, the text is ‘thin’: the density of the
knowledge in there is no way near satisfying, the arguments and sentences are
not nuanced enough. These will then need to be read and revised. I have to read
more and think more and then get back to the text to improve the texture; this
is measured in how it feels when I read it. Often, I find that reading that
last book chapter, article or bunch of analysis notes will provide me with the
piece that the text is missing and that hard-to-articulate feeling of being
dissatisfied with the text as it is will finally go away. This is why I
actually like review processes or co-authors: they provide a much-needed break
and opportunity to distance myself from the text (it’s at their desk, so to
speak, and not on mine).


The scary part of this is when it comes back, the text. When
this happens, I am often appalled at how unfinished it was when I submitted it
and even more appalled that I couldn’t see it at the time (how can this be? I
have never understood it). This is perhaps why I don’t trust the
‘current-author me’, because ‘future-author me’ will have read more and
understood more and thus be able to write much better thoughts into the text
and improve the overall result.’

Read more here.

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