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Thesis Misconceptions

By Robert Boice

  1. Writing is inherently difficult. In fact, good writing is not much more difficult than collegial conversation. Both writing and conversation carry the risk of being criticized, and both, when not practiced, carry the potential that faculty will be isolated and unheard.
  2. Good writing must be original. In fact, little, if any, of what we think or write is truly original. Much of what we cherish bears repeating, especially in new perspectives.
  3. Good writing must be perfect. This is no more true for writing than for social conversation. Successful authors are more likely to realize that perfect manuscripts are unattainable, perhaps even undesirable.
  4. Good writing must be spontaneous, and good writers await inspiration before beginning. Writers who await inspiration court writer's block.
  5. Good writing proceeds quickly. The same writers who procrastinate often believe that writing, once underway, should occur effortlessly and that manuscripts should be finished in one or a few marathon sessions.
  6. Writing is best done in binges. Many writers believe that writing requires large blocks of uninterrupted time – at least whole mornings, better yet, whole days, whole vacations, whole sabbaticals or retirement.

An Outline of Principles for Writing

  1. Establish one or a few regular places for writing, places where you do nothing but write. Make writing sites sacred by removing distractions such as magazines.
  2. Limit social interruptions during a writing session by closing your office door, posting a writing schedule, unplugging your phone and enlisting others to help you observe your schedule.
  3. Find another writer to join you for quiet periods of writing, preferably in surroundings with few distractions, such as a library.
  4. Make more valued activities (such as newspaper reading) contingent on writing first for a minimum period of time. Write while you are fresh (in the morning, if possible) in brief and regular daily sessions.
  5. Plan to work on specific finishable units of writing in each session. Plan beyond daily goals, scheduling stages of manuscript completion over weeks.
  6. Share your writing in its most formative stages, while constructive critics can still offer advice that you can use.
  7. Write in brief, daily sessions whether or not you feel ready.
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