(Science) fiction and writing groups as an inspiration for academic writing

I argue that academic writing process is no different from any other writing, although the results differ. I realise writing an academic text is a different genre from writing for example a novel. As an academic reader, soon into consuming, I expect an argument (delivered here in the first paragraph). Pretty soon after that, evidence. And as I skip to Conclusions, I really expect to find conclusions, i.e. how this stuff is related to anything outside the text. Goes without saying that the detective stories aren’t supposed to share up front who did it. And also goes without saying that delivering genre fitting text can be difficult.

I have learned all this from attending excellent academic writing workshops, blogs, and reading about academic writing from books such as How to write a lot and Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. These references emphasise that academic writers experience writing blocks, fear, and anxieties like any other writers. Also academic writers seem to have their own routines how to deliver text regularly. These sources and others are excellent in explaining what happens in academic writing. Put it shortly, academic writing is a skill that can be developed.

I want to share what has developed and inspired me as an academic writer:

  1. (science) fiction writing and reading
  2. writing groups

A lot what I have learned about writing as a craft has come from non-academic writing and reading. As a story, book, and (science) fiction enthusiast. I enjoy good writing. It is like breathing: I inhale stories of others’ experiences and different worlds and exhale joy. Therefore, I have tried my share of writing fiction. It gives me more energy than it most likely will ever be able to deliver to those poor souls reading my texts. As a side kick, my fiction writing hobby has enhanced my academic writing skills. Genre, plot, characters, surprise, dialogue, language, style… Many obvious connections. This doesn’t mean I understand research as fiction. The metaphysics of doing research is much more complex. Yet, research reports, articles, and text books are read by people. And what do people like? Good stories. No wonder narrative approach to research is a well rooted tradition.

My development as a writer is dependent on others. Making writing social is more important than I first realised. Support and understanding makes us flourish. I want to give full credit and appreciation to my superb academic colleagues: I would have not been able to write research texts without you. You know who you are. You put up with me as potentially deliverable.

Finally, it comes down to sitting down and writing no matter what the style is. Texts need to come from somewhere. Words need to be written. This is what I have read and reread in many quotes about writing regardless of the genre.

So better get back to my academic writing projects and start generating words!

Meeting your idol

This is too weird! My twenty-something-age-idol mentioned me in Twitter. It all started out when I was flipping through my Twitter feed and my eye caught a funny tweet by Lotta. She felt hip knowing Bieber and Beliebers pass the age of the normal suspects – but when asked couldn’t mention any songs. Then someone explained that the oh-baby-baby-song is Bieber’s. Based on the unique description of lyrics, I thought I’d been dancing to it lately during my dance lessons. (But it was Usher’s Scream, apparently very hip too.) And then my idol comes in and comments the chords, C-Am7-F-G. O.M.G.

Although I haven’t been following her music lately, I should confess that Maija Vilkkumaa is still my idol. Back in the days, she was one of the rock stars writing lyrics, composing, and completely rocking in Finnish, and as a result start a whole new genre. Super hip! She seems to do what she enjoys, which I always seem to respect.

Getting the kicks of her commenting something I was attached to (sounds so lame here), I thought of idoling. There is a saying about idols by Kirsi Piha (yet one idol of mine): Never meet your idol(s) because it might turn out that they are jerks despite all the inspiring stuff they created / wrote / composed / said / played etc. Before, I was extremely cautious to meet my idols. Also in the academia from my field, although It’d be possible as most of the people who inspire me academically are actually alive (unlike in Ancient philosophy). Yet, I stayed further away only enjoying their wisdom from the distance.

Why I feared my (academic) idols might turn out to be douchebags? We are all humans and occasionally humans are also irritating, right? At times, I’m also annoying, right? But that’s it, I thought my idols are somehow above me and my standards. I was allowed to be irritating but my idols weren’t. After all, they created something I was inspired by and seeing them as humans would have endangered my inspiration.

When I started teaching one of my first fears was that someone hates me. Then even a bigger fear emerged: What if someone thinks I’m very smart and then comes to talk to me and realises I’m a douchebag. And this is when I felt released from fears of meeting my idols: We are not perfect and that’s absolutely great.

Nowadays, I’m more willing to face my idols. Yet, it’s hard to figure out what to say. Should I confess that they are my idols? ‘Hello Ms. Villkumaa. You really rocked then and you rock now. Back on the days, we formed an air band every time we heard your song, no mater where we were. Usually I played the air drums. What’s up?’