This month was really tough academically. I am taking three courses this semester and the intensity of these courses hit me all at once. I received several graded assignments from my professors at the same time all with the same critiques -- the content of my assignments were fine but my writing was wordy, lacked clarity, and ultimately deterred my professors from understanding what I was trying to say.
I had trouble receiving this feedback for several reasons. First, I did really well in the first year of my doctoral program and wondered why now was my writing an issue? Second, I am a perfectionist and I wanted my writing to be perfect. Last, I got defensive because this was not the first time I received critiques about my writing.
I flashed back to when I worked in the NP sector and wrote grant proposals and communication pieces. Several Executive Directors did not like my writing style. So, I asked myself is this a conspiracy, first my ED's, now my professors, am I really a bad writer? I excelled in my Masters program, I write this blog, why can't I write clearly in academic papers? (Sounds winey...but wait).
Then one class our assignment was to read the book Writing Up Qualitative Research by Henry Wolcott and write a memo about it. This book was amazing, it was a how to guide for writing and editing and it opened my eyes and eased my anxiety about my writing. I had an ah ha moment while reading the book I wanted to share. Here is an excerpt from my class assignment that describes that moment.
The Writing up Qualitative Research monograph met me where I was at in the writing process. I was struggling to handle feedback I had received about my writing and how to improve my writing. However, this monograph taught me that I am not a bad writer and I need to spend more time editing my writing and listening to the feedback I receive about my writing. Wolcott expressed writing does not come naturally or easily to him and he quoted other authors that have the same issue. They all work at their writing and edit draft after draft until they get to a point where they are comfortable with sending their work to their editors.
The section on getting feedback was especially helpful because it emphasized the importance of using reviewers for your writing. I liked the tips Wolcott provided on having a colleague read the paper aloud to check for errors. My favorite quote of that section was something that I want to put on my wall to remind me to not take the review process so personally because “even the most gracious and gentle among your critics are far more likely to fault weaknesses in a manuscript than to applaud strengths” (Wolcott, 2001, p. 62). These critiques will make me a stronger and better writer.