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Helen Sword

Apr 29, 2021

Air & Light & Time & Space

How Successful Academics Write

Harvard University Press 2017

Today I talked to Helen Sword about Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write (Harvard UP, 2017). We talk about what not enough people talk about when the subject is writing.

interviewer : "You offer the advice of forming a writing group, because writing groups are, well, just all-around terrific for helping people write as they want to."

Helen Sword : "Exactly, and well, so I try not to be didactic about just about anything having to do with writing––I'm much more about, 'Here's a range of possibilities. Make a considered decision here,' rather than, 'I'm going to tell you what to do.' But if I were to give one piece of advice concerning the social dimensions of writing, I would say, 'Really, really strongly consider belonging to some kind of writing group.' And I define a writing group as being two or more people who meet more than once to talk about any aspect of writing. So, if you have somebody you meet with for coffee once a month, one other person, and all you do is you sit there and complain about your supervisor and how you wish that they were more sympathetic to your writing––That's already a writing group. So, it doesn't have to be some big kind of formal thing. It's opening yourself up to the social dimensions of writing and particularly to the idea of having supporters in your corner, having some cheerleaders, having some people you can talk to about writing who are not there to criticize you––who are there to help you."

Daniel Shea heads Scholarly Communication, the podcast about how knowledge gets known. Daniel is Director of the Writing Program at Heidelberg University, Germany. Daniel's YouTube Channel is called Write Your Research.

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