In an effort to address the difficulties of publishing academic writing and writer’s block for professors, Binghamton University’s Writing Initiative’s Campus-Wide Writing Support (CWWS) and Faculty Outreach hosted a workshop titled “Professors as Writers” on Thursday in Glenn G. Bartle Library.
The CWWS was established by the University to help faculty develop critical thinking skills with writing as a facet of disciplinary learning, according to its website. The initiative offers one-on-one consultations with faculty, class visits and demonstrations and collaborations with departments, among other resources.
The workshop emphasized three major points: the importance of getting started, becoming comfortable with messing up and writing with an open-ended process. The open-ended writing process, which supports writing freely for a set amount of time instead of a set number of words, was practiced during the workshop.
BU requires all undergraduate professors to publish work or research. This writing requisite can create difficulties for professors, especially those who don’t produce academic work frequently.
Robert Danberg, coordinator of CWWS, led the workshop and had the attendees write for three minutes about whatever came to mind when they thought about their fears and difficulties with writing. One of the attendees, Clarice Kelleher, a chemistry lecturer at BU, said she wrote about her difficulty with vocabulary when producing academic writing.
“I went to a talk recently and I didn’t know a lot of the terminology being used,” Kelleher said. “I run into these writing blocks often because I have a fear of sounding dumb.”
Another BU chemistry lecturer in attendance, Benjamin Turnpenny, said he wrote about external pressures and the need for support from other people.
“I feel pressure from the need to publish academic work,” Turnpenny said. “I think it would help to ask people who are in a similar situation, like [Kelleher], to see how they’re doing things.”
Danberg included an article written by Maria Konnikova for The New Yorker in the workshop. The article, titled “How to Beat Writer’s Block,” mentions the importance of becoming comfortable with writing.
“It’s useful to escape from external and internal judgment,” Konnikova wrote. “Such escapes allow writers to find comfort in the face of uncertainty.”
The workshop turnout — two professors — was less than Danburg had expected. He said the low attendance is symptomatic of professors not wanting to admit they may need help with writing.
“Professors don’t show up because they think they should know how to do it already,” Danberg said.
Danberg ended the event with a reminder that published work is not as simple as it seems.
“Think about a movie and of all the things hiding outside of camera view that the viewer does not see,” Danberg said. “Don’t mistake writing with having no work; don’t forget all of the things hiding out of view.”