Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
From Unpublishable to Publishable
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing
A faculty member was serving on a university-wide committee with the provost. As they waited for the group to assemble, he said “I read your sabbatical leave report and was really impressed. One thing is certain: you know how to get your work published in the journals and books of your field.” Little did the provost know how many failed attempts were piled up in the shadows of those achievements. Nobel laureate physicist, Werner Heisenberg once said that “an expert is a person who knows the worst mistakes that can be made in a field, and how to avoid them.” Ideally, it would not be necessary to commit each of those mistakes and become a better writer through that lowest form of learning, trial and error. Nevertheless, errors and missteps occur along the way. This chapter has discussed many of those errors in scholarly writing and publication as a way to prevent them. Returning to the conversation, the provost remarked on a position paper written for the leading professional association in the field that was one of four finalists for a national award. “How many hours would you estimate that you spent on writing that piece?” he asked. “It’s hard to say,” she replied. “I can remember many, many 4 am to 8 am mornings invested in writing and revising it but did not keep count. There’s also the issue of what counts as time—just thinking about it while doing other things? The trainings I completed for professionals on the topic? The experience of reviewing others’ position papers over the years and writing one previously? It’s hard to sort out, really. But I can remember wondering if anyone would notice how much time I put into it to make the writing flow.” Perhaps this is the single, most important attitude to adopt, one that assumes: “Good writing isn’t forged by magic or hatched out of thin air. Good writing happens when human beings take particular steps to take control of their sentences, to make their words do what they want them to do” (Fletcher, 2000, p. 5).
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