The Dread

Aug 11 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

There's something about starting a new non-data writing project that always sucks. I do all the little things I need to get done for a while, all while knowing I'm like Wile E. Coyote with an Acme anvil suspended overhead. It's only a matter of time before the rope frays. Both a grant and a data paper have their motivations, but a review or book chapter? Where's the push or the urgency? Where is that feeling of wanting to get your cool shit out to the world as fast as possible? It's not there. Not quite the same feeling to wake up in the morning and think "Man, I can't wait to slog through the literature today to summarize the findings of others in a cohesive way!" Yes, I will be using examples from my lab as well, but the topic I am tackling is far too large for any one group to have a monopoly on.

So, the only way to approach this and get it done is a strict writing regimen of dedicated hours every day when nothing else happens. No interruptions, no meetings, just writing. I hate to have to do it like this, but it's the only way to stare this thing down and get it done. The deadline doesn't scare me and my co-author is a minor contributor, so there isn't even much peer-guilt. No, it's all about blunt force.

3 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    Don't think of a review as a way to "summarize the findings of others in a cohesive way". Instead think of a review as a way to reshape the way people think about the problem. Think of the review as theory - a way to construct a conceptual framework around which everyone will be working for the next 50 years.What's the value-added of your review? If you can't answer that, don't waste your (or anyone else's) time writing the review.Reviews can be more important than data papers. Although they don't get acknowledged as such, they often change the field more than even good data papers do.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Well, what I am writing is a book chapter and a damn big one at that. I've always seen book chapters as something that is out of date before its even published, but I thought I would give this one a go. Now I think my initial reaction was a good one. 20,000 words is a hefty load and I don't think this book is going to have the reach that a review in a journal would. Thus, it is a bit of a slog.

  • Ink says:

    Cheering you on! (I am very pro-book-chapter.) Go for it, PLS! Oh, and the answer is: you. (Can and must push yourself through the slough of despair.)

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