I’ve had graduate student writers on the mind lately, and writing in general. Since my last post, where I wondered out loud where my career is headed, I have been made full-time at my school, and now have a joint appointment at two different campuses. If I was in charge of programming for the graduate population at two campuses before, I am now splitting my time at two campuses, and providing services for three. I have almost double the number of students to think about, traditional and non-traditional, from arts and sciences and health professions. It seems a little scary…but so far it’s been exciting.
As a result, I have gone from thinking about the dissertation all the time to thinking about graduate student writing all the time, not just because of work but because I was, until last May, a graduate student myself. As someone who finished her dissertation long-distance and depended a lot on the support of fellow writers/dissertators/graduate students/mentors, I try to put myself in the shoes of every student who comes in and help them achieve their writing goals. It is not my role to get them to question whether they should be in graduate school or not, but to support them in their writing endeavors. If they want to talk academia, let’s talk. But if they want to talk writing, I’m happy to do so.
I’ve also been able to put to use a skill that I developed throughout graduate school. I am the queen of scheduling—and this is something a lot of graduate students and writers may not be good at. I have had several students come in and tell me “I want to finish my dissertation soon” and I have sat down and helped them figure out deadlines for their work. Sometimes those deadlines come as a surprise, and sometimes it helps them focus. My advisor was excellent with deadlines, and so I learned from her to push myself, even when I thought I might fail.I may not have liked those deadlines, but I wasn’t about to whine and ignore them. Deadlines have fueled my writing all throughout college, especially through graduate school. I think I have a knack for taking a big project and breaking it down into parts, and so I am happy to share that with students who come to visit my office.
Another thing is that I really enjoy writing. I had a moment where I fell out of love with writing because the dissertation made writing feel so unpleasant; the process was bringing out my biggest insecurities about myself as a writer and as an academic. I tried to rescue my love for writing by finding other creative outlets. Something I didn’t know about myself is that I enjoy talking to people about writing, and I love reading about writing and writers. Once upon a time I thought I was the last person who should be teaching writing (and my Instructor of Record for the first course where I taught writing exclusively will tell you I made that clear to her, hehe). But now it feels like second nature, and I think I have found my niche, or at least a niche I am comfortable in for now.
Anyway, all this to say I have been thinking a lot about graduate student writers and writing. I have a lot of ideas (Speakers! Writing groups! Workshops! One-on-one scheduling meetings!) and I’m glad I have the time and the place to explore them. A year ago I would not have thought I’d be here; heck, a year ago, I was new at this job and mentally transitioning from graduate student to staff. Until recently, I was still mourning my not being able to teach. But being able to dive into my job and not split my consciousness between the dissertation and work, I am excited.
Lastly, I’d love to hear/read from you: what writing support do you think graduate student/academic writers/writers in general need? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?