Conclusion - 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

From Novice to Expert
Writing as Professional Development

As a session on writing for publication for faculty came to a close, I made the group an offer: “If you are willing to take the risk of sending your manuscript to me then I promise to read it and give you advice on how to improve it.” At first, this might seem rather foolhardy—surely I would be deluged with manuscripts. But that is not what happened. A handful of manuscripts trickled in and years of editorial experience made it comparatively easy to suggest the changes that needed to be made. One participant who submitted a manuscript was a professor of health and physical education. He had invested considerable effort in gathering original source documents and conducting interviews to write an article about a local sports team with an interesting history. I admired his tenacity because, although he was nearing retirement, he was determined to get the piece published and his manuscript had been rejected—twice—by a regional publication. Not long afterwards, the proud author sent me an envelope. The note inside said that he was wrapping up his career on a high note and already had another idea for an article; this time, he was going to aim for journal with anonymous peer review. A copy of the publication with his article flagged was inside. It included this line: Acknowledgement: The author wishes to thank Mary Renck Jalongo, a Professional Development Institute leader for Phi Delta Kappa, for reviewing an earlier version of this manuscript. Shortly afterwards, another letter arrived in the mail, this time from the editor. He said that, after he saw the Acknowledgement, he wanted to convey his appreciation for and admiration of my ability to advise writers on how to make their work publishable. I still remember that, rather than using the customary signoff of “Sincerely yours” he chose instead “Respectfully”. This incident captures the professional development dimension of writing for publication. When we dare to write and edit, support one another’s efforts, set new goals and meet them, it equips us to enrich and enlarge our contributions to the field. The motives of admirable writers are pure. Self-aggrandizement is not their purpose; making a contribution is.

Developing into a successful academic author demands intelligence, defined as: “Purposive adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of real-world environments relevant to one’s life” (Sternberg, 1985, p. 271). Based on Sternberg’s theory,

· Writers need analytical (componential) intelligence to analyze situations and select a suitable problem-solving strategy, to monitor cognitive processing, and to identify effective strategies for storing, retrieving, and expanding knowledge.

· Writers need creative (experiential) intelligence to arrive at insights, synthesize information, and identify original ideas; they automatize routine skills so that they have more mental resources to respond to novel situations.

· Writers need practical (contextual) intelligence to relate their internal worlds to the external world. To achieve goals, they adapt to the environment, modify the environment, or change to a different environment.

To maximize success, authors first need to trust themselves as learners and to believe that, with collegial support, resilience in the face of less-than-enthusiastic feedback, and dedication to craft, they have the capacity to meet or exceed peers’ expectations for manuscripts. Furthermore, no matter how accomplished or admired writers become, they must humbly accept that not all of their ideas are equally good nor all of their writing, publishable. Perhaps most important, the academic author needs to embrace the idea that becoming a writer is never a finished project; there are always new skills to acquire, new tasks to tackle, and different audiences or outlets to reach. The last, great outgrowth of a successful career in scholarly writing is wisdom that can be of service to other scholars. The most capable of academic authors have an obligation to replicate what others have done for them, such as sparing them at least some of the missteps and frustrations associated with contributing to a field through professional writing and publication.

Rather than uncritically accepting the “publish or perish” mantra that has dominated higher education for decades, today’s scholars, researchers, and practitioners would be better served by a fresh approach: publish and flourish. In positive psychology, the word flourish refers to optimizing human potential; thriving in a vigorous and healthful way; rebounding from difficulties or disappointments; and promoting goodness, generativity and growth (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). While there is little question that Academia carries with it a number of pressures and stressors it is also true that, like hot house gardening, it provides a rarified environment capable of accelerating growth. First, there are bright, competent people with different areas of expertise assembled in one location who can offer support in various ways at different times. Second, there are structures in place to recognize scholarly work and reward achievements. Third, there are tough but fair critics and reviewers who can “pre-review” a work and identify its flaws well before a manuscript is subjected to the formal review system. Capitalizing on such resources, however, requires authors to act out of a sincere desire to improve and refine their work. Angst and arrogance are the academic author’s nemesis. The former undermines resolve and the latter inhibits learning from mistakes.

From the outset of this book we have made no claim that we know secrets sufficiently powerful to convert writing into an effortless and wildly profitable venture. What we can promise is that, if you invest a professional lifetime in fulfilling the role of the teacher/scholar/researcher, it will exert a positive effect on your academic life, your network of colleagues in the field, and sense of satisfaction at career’s end. In our view, such things as earning the esteem of peers, working with a trusted writing partner, being helpful to practitioners, or mentoring the next generation of scholars are of inestimable value. Excellence in scholarly writing is a major mechanism for accomplishing these important goals.


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