THE JOY OF WRITING
Readers have different preferences when it comes to reading an academic paper. Some like it long, others like it short.
Writers too have different preferences. Some enjoy writing long papers while others prefer shorter ones.
Most language teachers that I have met, however, prefer reading and writing shorter and practical papers.
The reason is simple: They don’t have time! They’d consider themselves lucky if they could find time to read/write short papers.
For most of them, reading/writing long papers is a luxury they can’t afford. Moreover, they prefer short, practical papers that have more direct applications for teaching.
I too enjoy reading and writing short, practical papers.
But preferences aside, in the field of arts and humanity (e.g., TESOL, Applied Linguistics), papers tend to be long. I have seen very long papers of about 10,000 words. These are great papers but I find them too wordy and are not always easy to read.
I agree that some papers need to be long, e.g., state-of-the-art review papers which synthesizes years of research with a view to providing directions for future research.
But other types of papers (e.g., research reports, pedagogical papers) can be much shorter. This can be done by shortening the long-winded introductions, literature review and conclusions.
In his paper “A Short Paper Proposing That We Need to Write Shorter Papers” Krashen (2012), p. 2) writes:
BENEFITS OF WRITING SHORT PAPERS
The benefits below apply to any kind of writing. But the examples and illustrations are more relevant for those who write shorter papers. Short papers here include book reviews, articles in newsletters, entries in teaching journals, reflective blogs and short academic papers.
1. Writing helps clarify your thoughts
Writing helps you ‘see’ your thoughts more clearly. You may have a lot of ideas, but often these ideas are so interconnected that you can’t see them clearly.
Once we put these ideas on paper and organize them according to some criteria (e.g., general-specific, abstract-concrete, random – chronological), you will begin to see the different parts of your ideas much more clearly.
2. Writing refines your writing skills
The more you write, the easier it is for you to turn your ideas into words. In the same way that reading is best learned through reading, writing too is best learned via writing.
Famous writers write practically every day. In an interview with George Plimton, Hemingway said: “I write every morning”.
When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write ~ Hemingway
Accomplished TESOL scholars also write regularly, i.e., they write every day. No wonder these writers are so productive, practically writing a full paper or book chapter every other month or so!!
Research also shows clearly the benefits of extensive and systematic practice. If you want to achieve mastery in writing, there is no replacement for practice. You simply have to do it regularly, thoughtfully and deliberately and you will be able to perform the skill effortlessly and automatically.
In the case of writing, you will be able to write fluently and accurately. And also find writing a more enjoyable activity.
3. Writing blog posts is worth your time
People blog for different reasons. Some write blogs to entertain themselves, to share their knowledge with others, to build their online portfolios and to enhance their writing skills. Although blogs can be several pages long, most are short pieces of writing, typically in the the 1,000 words range.
One of the benefits of blogging is that it doesn’t take long to write a blog post: You can write a blog in one hour or less. Another benefit is that you can publish your blog posts almost immediately and share them with your friends via social media.
Yet another benefit is that you can revisit your blog, add another paragraph or two, change some of the wording, delete a sentence or two, etc. And you don’t need permission to do this. You are your own publisher!!
4. Short papers are publishable
There are good quality journals that publish short, practice-oriented papers. The ELT Journal for example publish different article types. Main articles are about 3,500 words long; key concept articles are much shorter, about 1,000 words long.
5. Journaling improves your writing and teaching
Keeping a teaching journal is a great way to become a more reflective teacher. A teaching journal is a record of your reflections on your teaching.
A journal entry is a short essay (about 500 words) that describes what actually happened in your lesson, what you think about your lesson, what worked, what didn’t and why, what you plan to do in your future lesson.
Regular reflections via journal writing can help you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and motivate you to further refine your professionalism.
You can build your own blogging website so that you share your reflective posts with your colleagues and other teacher friends. Popular blogging sites that you can use for free include WordPress, Wix and Weebly. They are easy to use and don’t require technical knowledge of web creations.
6. Daily writing increases your productivity
Writing a 20-page long paper can be a daunting task. Many would dread the thought of spending endless hours drafting, revising, rewriting and proof-reading the paper.
But if you break up the task into a smaller and more manageable unit, it won’t look too intimidating. If you spend 60 minutes a day writing one or two paragraphs, you will be able to finish your first draft in a month’s time.
The same strategy applies to writing a book or a PhD thesis. If you write 500 words a day, you can finish your 200-page book or thesis in a year’s time. The key here is to have the discipline of writing every every day.
Some say that writing is hard; but the joy and intellectual satisfaction you derive from it is well worth your time and effort.