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The Chronicle of Higher Education

Presenting Without A Net

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

In an ideal world, whenever I was invited to give a talk or a lecture, it would go something like this:

I would spend a few weeks thinking about what I wanted to say. After a sufficient percolation period, I would sit at my computer and sweat out a complete draft.

Then I would spend months revising it, shoring up the structure, getting rid of ideas that didn’t fit, and dumping whatever seemed extraneous. I would add anecdotes, vivid images, and sparkling, funny phrases. I would hunt down -ly adverbs that seemed weak or lazy, and go on a search-and-destroy mission for needless this, that’s, and there’s. Finally, having driven myself crazy with perfectionist anxiety, I would tell myself I was ready.

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Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Writers

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

Asked if he thought he had evolved as a writer, Patrick Modiano, the most recent Nobel laureate in literature said, “No, not really. The feeling of dissatisfaction with every book remains just as alive. I had a longtime recurring dream: I dreamt that I had nothing left to write, that I was liberated. I am not, alas. I am still trying to clear the same terrain, with the feeling that I’ll never get done.”

 

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The Habits of Highly Productive Writers

By | The Chronicle of Higher Education | No Comments

Many writers I know love Joyce Carol Oates—some even refer to her as JCO, as if she were a brand as recognizable as CBS or BMW. But just as often, the mention of her name is met by groans and complaints about how much she’s written. Her productivity seems like an affront.

When someone’s doing a lot more than you, you notice it. It brings out your petty jealousy. And if you’re like me (occasionally petty and jealous), it might make you feel crappy about yourself. Which is, let’s face it, ridiculous. No one else’s achievements take anything away from yours, or mine. The fact that another writer is working hard and well should be nothing more than inspiration, or at least a gentle prod.

 

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What Running and Writing Have in Common

By | Selected Essays, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Uncategorized | No Comments

When people ask me what running and writing have in common, I tend to look at the ground and say it might have something to do with discipline: You do both of those things when you don’t feel like it, and make them part of your regular routine. You know some days will be harder than others, and on some you won’t hit your mark and will want to quit. But you don’t. You force yourself into a practice, the practice becomes habit and then simply part of your identity. A surprising amount of success, as Woody Allen once said, comes from just showing up.

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