Have you written a section or a chapter in your dissertation that during the writing you were engaged and even in flow, but later when you read it over, you aren’t particularly in awe?
In fact, you realize you’re just recounting a narrative. Or basically writing description, and it isn’t even good description. It’s short. It’s choppy. It’s obvious.
As you read the chapter, you imagine your educated reader looking up from the text and mouthing those two scary words– “So what?”
What do you do? Lots of hand wringing? Lots of avoidance?
Actually, the question “So what?” isn’t such a bad one, provided you ask it before your reader does. You want a more critical approach so what is your strategy? What do you do?
If you want to arrive at a deeper meaning in your text, what questions do you ask yourself?
1. Fill in the blank: The point of this chapter is _________. Work at getting succinct language that completes that sentence.
2. Ask “What’s urgent here? What is critical?” No matter what else the reader might get from your chapter, what do you think is absolutely crucial that the reader understands?
3. List the key terms that come to your mind about the chapter. If you’re trying to come up with a concept, name what comes to mind as you read each paragraph. Get as many terms down on your list as you can and then go through and see which words resonate with you. Choose the top key terms and see which ones capture what you’re trying to describe or gives additional meaning.
4. Look at what else is out there—what else has been written that you can draw on? Continue to read and turn this over in your mind. Give your brain a little time to make the clever connections it can make when given a chance.
5. Give yourself a deadline—by what day will you have your new approach or new outline that has a clear, critical frame? Give yourself time to work, but also know that you will come up with something that’s good enough or perhaps even spectacular by a definite day.
6. And cheers for you—you asked and answered “So what?”
When you find that what you’ve written doesn’t make the grade, step aside and look at it as if someone else had written it. What questions would you ask that someone else to elicit a new, critical view of the text?
P.S. How are you doing on establishing a powerful writing habit?