In this week’s blog, you can choose to write about anything you like that relates in some way to life narratives and/or the issues we’ve been discussing in ASTU 100A. So, you could certainly build on our analyses of Facebook (using your own auto/ethnographic work, or other observations), or extend that conversation by looking at another social network. ETA: This article has good stuff on the flap over the French flag profile pic practice (what a tongue twister), how Zuckerberg got that going, and also cites some scholarly work on Facebook and public mourning. Thinking of current events, you might consider memorial responses to the Paris (or Beirut or Kenya or Baghdad) bombings, looking at how life stories are told as part of a process of public mourning. This video is one interesting example, but you can find certain victims profiled in news stories, too. Twitter brings us a very Web 2.0 example of what I’ve called “death writing” (vs “life writing”), with the #enmemoire hashtag (and account), offering up snapshots of the victims in under 140 characters. I see that scholar Judith Butler’s concept of the “grievable life” (which we briefly encountered in Whitlock’s work) has been circulating again as part of debates about media coverage of the different bombings and the larger question of whose lives (and deaths) matter (a letter from Paris, by Butler, is one of those sites). Remember that you are aiming for an evidence-based, analytical post, with links.
When you’re not writing your blog post, you are of course writing papers, lots of papers. Below I talk about the writing process and offers some links and tips to help you.
- Writing is hard: let’s face it, you won’t want to do it. But the research (e.g., How to Write a Lot) is conclusive: you will write more, and have better ideas (and more of them), if you make yourself write every day. Schedule the time, set a timer, log off social media, and just start. It’s okay to write “shitty first drafts,” as Anne Lamott calls them. If you’re really stuck, you can try freewriting: for a certain amount of time, just write whatever is in your mind in relation to a project. Don’t look up citations, don’t stop. If you’re stuck, you write, “I’m stuck” until you aren’t. (Try writing “I’m stuck because _____.”) Writing can help you figure out what you want to say.
- Try working in different ways: switch from your laptop to your notebook (or vice versa). Move rooms. Stand up. Use a whiteboard or a pack of sticky notes and your wall to do some mind-mapping or brainstorming. I’ve discovered that I can’t outline sitting down, so now I do it on a big piece of paper that I leave up and can keep working on. (My family is very forgiving: “Oh, Mom has a paper due.”) Pro tip: Make sure you have markers that won’t damage the wall underneath!
- If you aren’t doing outlines, start: they don’t have to look like a tidy list (see mine, above). They just help you gather ideas, examples, scholars’ voices into one place, and then sort them into categories. You can then start to see what belongs together, and then what those things together suggest. You’ll also see what’s missing. Outlines also help you identify main concepts and the connections between ideas – helping you develop an argument that works and develops across paragraphs. Note that outlines are dynamic: you keep working on them throughout the paper process, even while you are writing, so that you can capture new ideas and insights, and keep tinkering with the structure as it develops.
Outlines can take different forms.
- You can do a list of points (e.g., in Word document). Word actually has an outline tool that helps you create hierarchies of ideas, and can be useful.
- You can do visual outlines, such as concept maps.
- Try cue cards, Powerpoint slides, sticky notes
- You can do outlines at different times: many of my colleagues are big fans of reverse outlines, which are like gists notes that you produce on your own drafts: they help you revise and develop your ideas.
I hope these tips help you find some new ways to work, or support your existing habits. Remember what Smith and Watson say about writing: ultimately, you’ve got to LFF! So get to it.