Meeting the Challenges of Writing - From Novice to Expert - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Meeting the Challenges of Writing
From Novice to Expert
Writing as Professional Development

Authors should take heart from the sheer number of possible outlets for their work. Jinha (2010) estimates that there are nearly 50 million academic articles in print. Currently, there are approximately 5.5 million scholars, 2000 publishers and 17,500 research/higher education institutions. Indeed, the publisher of this book, Springer, is one of the largest publishers of professional books in the world with 55 publishing houses in 20 countries throughout the world that produce 2900 journals annually and have a catalog of 190,000 books. Surely, with that many possibilities, a diligent scholar can locate a suitable outlet for a manuscript that has been carefully conceptualized, well written, and subjected to critical review prior to submission.

Academic authorship is a form of social discourse and text/identity work as a scholar/author (Kamler, 2008; Kamler & Thomson, 2006). In this approach, neither fight nor flight is the coping mechanism. Instead, authors work to acquire the requisite confidence and skills to enter into the professional dialogue. Kenneth Burke’s (1941) frequently quoted “entering the conversation” metaphor captures the identity work associated with writing for publication:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending on the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. (pp. 110—111)

As authors attempt to merge with the ongoing professional conversation the focus now shifts from receptive language (i.e., listening and reading) to expressive language (i.e., speaking and writing). As Burke’s metaphor so effectively captures, entering into professional dialogue demands quite a bit in terms of confidence, choice of moves, and persistence. Participants must determine when they can speak, what to say, to whom they can say it, and under what conditions they can expect to be heard.

Kamler (2008) found that for doctoral students, in particular, publishing was a source of anxiety, writing in the academic style of their discipline was a struggle, and adopting an authoritative voice amongst their peers required considerable effort. Many students also reported feelings of personal inadequacy and vulnerability to peer criticism. In some instances, however, authors who have amassed successful experiences with writing may begin with confidence, only to have their faith shaken by the new forms of writing demanded of them when writing for publication. Foundational to these changes is self-talk, defined as the inner conversations we have about writing for publication. Figure 13.1 highlights stages in self-talk about challenging tasks that we face.

Fig. 13.1 Stages in self-talk about writing (Sources: Jalongo, 2002; Manning, 1991)

Activity 13.1: Assess Your Self-Talk About Scholarly Writing

Skim over these five perspectives on writing for publication in Fig. 13.1. Select the level that is the best match for your self-talk about writing. If you are in a class or professional development session, tabulate the results for those at your table and then compile them for the entire group.

Table 13.1 uses a psychologist’s analysis of how people meet challenges (Gilbert, 2002, p. 134) and relates it to doctoral candidate Michelle Amodei’s self-talk from her writing journal.

Table 13.1

Stages in meeting the writing challenge

Steps in meeting a challenge

Doctoral candidate Michelle Amodei

Unaware of incompetence

You don’t know that you don’t know. You are unaware of your deficiencies in understanding or skill

“Writing a journal article will be a cinch…I am a good writer and enjoy writing”

“The experience will help me to work toward my professional goals — I want to be published”

“This class will be lots of fun and not too much pressure”

Recognition of limitations

You begin to realize that some new skills that you do not have are required. Now a change is required. Will you dig in your heels and refuse to change, retreat backwards, or summon up the motivation to make a commitment to change?

“There may be more to writing for publication than I thought.”

“I am still pretty sure I’ll do OK — how hard can it be to write a little journal article?”

“I’ve presented at conferences before, so I should be OK with this assignment”

“How do I find a focus?”

“I have lots of ideas, but suddenly they seem all jumbled up in my head”

Painstaking change

Acquiring the new habits is difficult and awkward. Knowledge, skill, and confidence are shaken. Each step requires deliberate effort, like learning to walk for the first time, and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to this

“How do I do this?”

“What do I want to say and to whom am I saying it?”

“What if I have nothing to really contribute to the literature?”

“I can’t find a focus!”

“Perhaps I am starting to understand how to do this”

“I just need to write this thing…”



A new behavioral repertoire is established and, given the great effort to learn it, you want to put it into practice—like the child who has learned to walk with confidence and ease. Eventually, your knowledge, skill, and confidence come together in such a way that it “appears effortless to the casual observer” (Gilbert, 2002, pp. 2—3)

“Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this.”

“It still needs A LOT of work, but that’s OK!”

“This process is nothing like what I expected, but I like it even better than writing class papers”

“I will keep on writing!”