Tag Archives: writing

Procrastireading and writing

It was late at night and I was trawling through Twitter looking for interesting links about academic writing. I tapped, I scrolled, I skimmed. I flipped from one site to the next, a whirling dervish, and even while writing this I find myself flipping to the net in an effort to address my own ignorance- I use the term whirling dervish without even knowing where it comes from, an expression from my youth. So again, I am scanning, scrolling, eyes flying through information and I now wonder if I’ll ever use this expression again in this way, as now the concept of the whirling dervish has been fundamentally transformed.

A digression? An interruption? A juncture?
My action is all of these things – is this positive or a negative though?

I’ve been pondering this for the last couple of weeks after meeting with a colleague who said she struggles to concentrate on a paper for any length of time. Them last week I was meeting with Siobhan O’Dwyer who runs virtual shut up and write sessions (which you can find on Twitter @suwtues). We were talking about our reading and writing habits, pondering whether having a world at our fingertips makes us more likely to develop different types of skills and if this development of a skill set is at the expense of others?

All of this made me think about my own habits- am I engaging in procrastiwriting and procrastireading techniques- the reading and writing I do when I’m not doing ‘proper’ reading or writing? My reading on twitter, blogs, from books about writing – is this just procrastireading? Reading that takes me away from reading journal articles that might inform my academic writing? Is this blog, my home farm blog, my tweets, my Facebook posts, my scrawls in my writing journal – is this really procrastiwriting? Writing that takes me away from the act of writing journal articles, books, grant applications – the types of writing that will foster my career ( according to the rules of the game).

So is this writing or reading a waste of time? And if I believe it is valuable why do I refer to this as procrastiwriting or procrastireading?

I ponder on this for a while before coming to the conclusion that procrastireading and writing is important. This writing and reading does play a central role in enabling me to conceptualise the work I’m doing to make connections between my ideas and those of others, it enables me to jump into the stream and then out again, at will. It enables me, as Laurel Richardson argues to write (and read) myself into understanding. For me, there is a great pleasure that comes from reading about other people’s writing processes, particularly the habits and processes of other academic writers. It is reassuring to hear the tales of others as they struggle over words, twist concepts into a shape that will effectively frame their research, and return time and time again to pesky, difficult concepts. So while some of what I do might seem mindless- it is an act of translation, as I read and interpret their processes. I am a voyeur, a collector, a processor. I am all of these things until I morph and become a creator, engaged in an assemblage of facts, minutiae and trivia until I then become a purveyor, a seller of ideas.

Then the cycle begins once more. A bower bird of electronica, I retweet, favourite, like, upload, bookmark, copy, paste and pin. I fall in and out of the stream. I am connected, disconnected, present and absent.

And you? Reading this, are you procrastireading? Or are you engaged in a dialogue? A dialogue, not with me, but with the ideas in your head? How do the puzzle pieces fit together for you in this reading and writing process?


Writing to type

Yesterday I went to the second day of a women in leadership PD. On the first day, the room was tense, the air hung with an uncomfortable silence and only a few spoke up, while others (including me), sat silent, removed, disconnected and wondering how we might get to a place where we could learn.

 Yesterday was different. Within the first few minutes the air was charged with excitement, interest, possibility and engagement. Julie, our facilitator, began with Holland’s personality and vocational types, asking us to think about how we would ‘type’ ourselves, choosing from Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional.

I’ve always been cynical about these typologies, naturally suspicious of anything that pigeonholes me into a box and gives me rules that suggest how I should behave, or work, or be. When I read through Holland’s description of types, it seems my argument against typologies is the hallmark of the artistic and investigative types- cue me saying ‘hmmmm’ in a suspicious, reluctant tone.

You can read about the types here:


I read through the checklists for each of these and thought ‘Am I really this easy to ‘type’?! How could someone have got inside my head to know everything that bugs me and everything that I like?’

My suspicions of Holland and other personality frameworks slammed up against the list of traits that I have in spades. How could this be? (Well according to Holland that questioning is ‘typical’ of the investigator at work again).

Julie talked about each ‘type’, arguing that those who fall into the artistic type are storytellers and that they ‘feel their way through the world’. She argued that artistic types are most at risk of hearing ‘should do’ messages, for example, ‘you should get a real job, artists/ writers/ performers don’t make any money’. Julie argued that the challenge for all of us is ‘to do work that is an expression of ourselves’ and that for artistic types, their work is an expression of themselves more than it is for any other ‘type’.  The purpose of all of this was to get us thinking about where we might fit in relation to the personality types and the implications this might have for our own personal leadership styles.

Typically (oh I’m thinking about the etymology of that word more and more now- typicalis, typikos, model, type), I started thinking about this notion of personality type and of Julie’s argument that we have a true vocational path that aligns with our type. She went back to that point of ‘what you liked at 5’ should be what you are doing. I had a flash to a box of belongings from childhood that now lives in my study. In the box? A yellow folder with pictures on the cover and in shaky, childish handwriting ‘Sharon’s stories’. If I take this ‘what you liked at 5’ theory, it seems that I should be writing, reading and telling stories. Perhaps this is why I became an academic? If I follow Holland’s personality type I have a framework to argue why I want to tell stories of research, to write in a way that helps to understand the world and to connect people and place together.

So, I may in fact, be writing to type. Well, until the investigator takes over and finds a flaw in my own argument.

Sleep no more…

The sound of people walking home from the pub rouses me from my slumber and I hear their laughter and footsteps echoing away up the road and into the night. I glance at the phone and the illuminated screen reveals that it is just past the witching hour of 3am. Still I lie awake and my mind starts to wander.

Soon I am thinking of the paper that M and I started last year. Why does my mind turn to work in these moments? In the night I miss living by the sea, where the sound of waves rolling in to the shore could distract me from the never ending to do list in my head. Without the sea to drown out the white noise I can lie awake for hours if I wake up in the early hours. This morning though I think of the paper and what needs to be done to make it ‘work’. I’m unhappy with how it is hanging together and the ideas that M and I have argued passionately about seem lost and diluted in the structure of this paper. We were thinking of sending it to an international teacher education journal and during our writing process I applied for a position as an editorial intern and was lucky enough to be selected. I think about our paper with my intern eyes and I am sure that this is not the structure or journal for this paper of ours.

I rearrange the doona and think of how our ideas had emerged in the first place. Walks around the lake talking, coffee meetings in the local art gallery, long emails and a series of text messages. Through all of these our thoughts had crystallised and developed. Why not represent our conversation to understanding in that way? An idea is borne, a journal springs to mind, a structure begins to emerge and I tap on my ipad – the glow casting a mix of both shadows and light.

Maybe academic life appeals as it is like the sea I love so much. There are ebbs and there are flows, moments of crushing heaviness when you feel you might drown and moments of light when you float in the wave suspended by momentum.

I close the cover and the light dims. My eyes become re accustomed to the dark. Let the rewriting begin tomorrow. Image