• College Ready Writing

    A blog about education, higher ed, teaching, and trying to re-imagine how we provide education.


Digital Writing Month Fail?

Things didn't go as I had planned this month. But they didn't go badly, either. 

November 29, 2012

It’s already the end of the month. I came nowhere near completing my goal of 50,000 digital words, but more troubling, I didn’t manage to write anything for either of my MLA presentations. Instead I spent a lot of time this month applying for jobs, caring for sick kids and spouse and self, and grading (oh, the grading!). Not to mention the 2.5 hours spent filling out paperwork for immigration. Can YOU list the exact addresses (and dates) of everywhere you’ve lived since you were 16?                   

Thankfully, even though it is December this weekend, I have a week before my students hand in their final portfolios, so I can hopefully get at least one of my MLA presentations done.

I don’t actually have much of a choice, as I can’t afford to fly to Canada with all the books necessary to write the thing over the holidays.

But rather than look at the glass as half-empty (which, admittedly, I’m in the frame of mind to do right now), I’m going to look at it as half-full. I did write a heck of a lot this month, digitally.

First, I am proud to introduce my new series over at Academic Coaching and Writing, “An Academic, Writing.” Over the month of December, I am going to be writing a series of posts about the challenges I face (and probably a great many of us face) when we write, particularly for an academic audience or purpose. The face of academic publishing may be slowly changing, but it is still predominantly “publish-or-perish” in the most traditional sense. In the New Year, I will be writing openly and honestly about my writing progress (or lack thereof) as I go through their coaching program while writing my book on Dany Laferriere. I hope you’ll come with me on this journey. My first challenge: if you can believe it, finding time to write.

I am also flattered to have been invited by the organizers of Digital Writing Month to contribute a featured blog post. The title of my piece is “Plant a Tree, Grow a Forest,” and in it I discuss how my digital writing has grown and blossomed over the past few years:

We speak about networks and webs, but I prefer to think about forests and trees and the life that they sustain, providing oxygen, shelter, food, raw materials, and perhaps most importantly, beauty. My life has been enriched by the forest that has grown from my digital writing, particularly those who have nurtured its development. It has, in some ways, taken on a life of its own, growing in unexpected directions and supporting an ecosystem I could never have planned or even imagined. I am continually surprised by what comes out of this forest, but also what I find there as I continually explore its depths.

I am particularly thrilled to have my piece appear alongside the beautiful and moving works of the other contributors, notably Bonnie Stewart’s “Blogging is a Choral Act” and Robin Wharton’s “Dance : Work : Learn : Teach : Write”. I wish I had had more time to participate in the Code Poem Challenge or the Twitter Poetry, but life got in the way. Anna Smith, in her post closing DigiWriMo, captured a tweet that perfectly sums up my feelings towards the experience: “I don’t want it to end.”

I did do some “work” on my Dany Laferriere project, creating three posts over at Chasing Laferriere. I’ve been meaning to visually represent the different ways that Laferriere’s first novel, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, was presented to the public, and I finally did. Here is a run-down of the different covers of the novel, in various translations. I also found an old TV special from the late 1980s where Laferriere recreates some of his experiences when he first arrived in Montreal with the aim of helping Quebec viewers figure out if they are racist or not (seriously).  This is a pretty cool find, because it is another iteration of the story he tells in his novel (recently expanded and revised), A Drifting Year. Finally, I began to see ways in which my theories regarding Laferriere’s use of orality and performance in his work could be articulated. Hopefully in time for my presentation at the MLA.

Oh, and an essay I wrote has finally made it to print and in Kindle format! That counts, right? Check out The Postcolonial Short Story.

But it wasn’t just all work this month. Just for fun, I made a Wordle of my old blog’s content and my new blog’s content. Here’s how they compare:

Wordle: College Ready Writing - Blogger

Wordle: College Ready Writing - Inside Higher Ed

My focus, clearly, has shifted. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve moved here to IHE or if it’s because I’m refocusing my interests and therefore what I write about. I still teach as much as I did before, but I just don’t write about my students as much. 
I tweeted approximately 3500 times during the month of November. I decided to collect 1500 of my tweets (which included tweets at me) in a Wordle, too. 

Wordle: 1500 Tweets


Needless to say, I seem to figure quite prominently, as does RT. This does tell me that I engage in plenty of conversations on Twitter, but it didn’t give me a good idea about what was in the tweets (it’s so, so tiny!). So I removed 575 mentions of me (@readywriting) and ran it through Wordle again.

Wordle: 1500 Tweets pt2


Can you tell that I chose the #TvsZ week to collect my tweets? Again, it’s interesting to see who I interacted with that week and what I was tweeting about. If I had more time (or, rather, could remember), I’d run this every week to get an idea of what I was up to on Twitter. This may actually be an interesting tool to use to show the value of Twitter to other academics or (ahem) tenure and/or hiring committees.

This was digital writing month. There are some other things that I wrote, more privately about the job search process, words that may one day in the future see the more public light of day, or remain for the eyes of a few friends, supporting each other through our screens. I said it before, but I am grateful for digital writing month, even if I didn’t meet my goals.

It sure was a lot of fun. 


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