How to use deliberate practice to improve your writing

Last week, as one of my last duties as research fellow at RMIT before I take up my new role at ANU, I hosted two seminars – one from Prof Anthony Pare from McGill and the other from Prof Helen Sword, the writer of the wonderful “Stylish Academic Writing”.

Helen and Anthony had many interesting observations about the process of learning to write, but both made the same basic point: very few of us have formal instruction in how to write like an academic.

The Mountain of Happy

Some time ago I wrote a post called “The Valley of Shit”, which has become one of the most popular posts ever. Briefly, the Valley of Shit is a state of mind where your thesis seems terrible, awful, bad. Walking though the Valley of Shit is a ghastly business because, well – it smells. But every Valley has an end, as I pointed out in the post, and eventually you will emerge from the towering walls of brown stuff, hopefully with a PhD in your hand.

Should you quit your PhD?

Do you sometimes think about giving up? Should you entertain this notion seriously, or ignore it? When is it right to walk away?

It’s an important issue which we haven’t really tackled much on the blog to date, which is why I was pleased when B.J. Epstein, a lecturer in literature and translation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England offered to write a post on the topic.