Writing Begets More Writing

by Africa Hands, former Head Editor, INALJ Kentucky
previously published 9/9/13

Writing Begets More Writing

africahandsIn this, my last post as Head Editor of the Kentucky INALJ page, I wrap up my three-part series on writing, with my notes from the third speaker on the ALA NMRT Writing and Publishing webinar. As you will recall, the first post summarized Beth Evans’ four P’s of publishing – persistence, partnership, promotion, and preference. Open access publishing with tips from Maura Smale was the focus on the second post. Maura has been quite successful in open access publishing and is a great example of someone taking advantage of the various options available to library and information professionals to share our experiences and research activities.

The last speaker in the webinar was Brian Mathews (@brianmathews), Associate Dean for Learning and Outreach at Virginia Tech. Mathews offered very practical advice for getting started with writing and publishing starting with the straightforward idea that “Writing begets more writing.” The same principle applies to our professional lives as a whole: activity begets more activity. We saw this with both Evans and Smale. Evans wrote an article that led to an interview in a well-known education publication, which led to an ongoing relationship with the publication. Smale began as a peer reviewer for a publication and was then invited to join the editorial board which furthered her writing goals. Both decided to become actively engaged in the profession through writing and publishing and this led to more involvement with wider audiences.

Mathews encouraged us to write in various formats to build communication skills and different audiences. He also suggested we write for where we are in our careers and for where we want to be next in our careers. Many librarians start with blogging. If that is where you are in your career and the format that is most comfortable for you, start there. Early career professionals, and even those well into their careers, would do well to keep an eye on what’s next. Where do you want to go next? What writing and publishing activities will get you there? Does your resume show evidence of growth in your writing experiences? Sure it’s daunting to always focus on the next move. If “next move thinking” stresses you out, think of it as staying current in your field. Whether or not you want to switch jobs or seek promotion, it’s still within your responsibilities as a professional to stay abreast of the field.

Reading and writing beyond the library and information science profession or “cross-pollinating” was mentioned by both Mathews and Evans. If a faculty position is in your future, you might start publishing your research in academic journals or as Evans suggests, partner with a more senior professional on a writing project. Faculty in other disciples are open to partnerships especially with the growth of embedded librarianship. Be vocal about your interest in writing, seeking out trusted partners who support your goals. Your support system should also include good proofreaders. Mathews recommends a fundamentalist, someone who is a grammar stickler, and a good friend who can be trusted to tell you when your good idea is not so good or at least not effectively communicated.

Mathews recommended two books for the writing and publishing section of our bookshelves: First Have Something to Say: Writing for the Library Profession by Walt Crawford, and To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink. Also check out Alexandra Janvey’s, Head Editor of the Iowa INALJ page, list of 6 books on writing in general and LIS specifically.

The speakers on New Members Round Table webinar on writing and publishing offered not only useful tips for getting started, but also encouragement for what is sometimes an unwieldy process. Check out the NMRT website for information on future webinars and conference programs. I look forward to reading your articles and books in the coming years.

I am embarking on a new non-LIS adventure in higher education and won’t be able to devote as much time to scouting job posts on a daily basis. I have enjoyed being head job spotter for Kentucky and wish you all well in your careers.