As some of you might of noticed my posts have been somewhat infrequently recently. This was mostly due to hosting problems and very poor customer service from the hosting provider that this website used to be on. After a lot of frustration my partner moved all of our websites to a new provider and set up all of our sites again.
This experience highlighted two things: 1) the importance of backing up your websites. There was a horrible couple of days where we weren’t sure we were going to be back to get our databases out of the old provider. 2) How integrated blogging is to my writing and thinking process. I really missed being able to write off-the-cuff posts and to work through ideas I was considering when my site was down.
Thankfully things are up and running again. Expect lots of posts in the coming days as I work through a list of ideas and cleanup half written posts that wrote during the hiatus.
As you may have already guessed I like writing. I’ve been blogging about public history for years, I maintain a personal/off-topic blog with my partner, I’ve written for other history outlets, and I also write occasionally as part of my job. I also write some fiction occasionally. Like many people who maintain creative or academic writing practices I struggle with finding time and coming up with ideas for the creation of new content.
In the past I’ve found writing in public as a helpful tactic to keeping on track. Talking publicly about my writing goals and sharing works in progress helps keep my accountable to readers and to myself. I’ve also participated in “A Meeting With Your Writing” as a way to carve out dedicated time for academic writing and that has worked wonders for seeing projects move off my writing plate.
As an attempt to try something new with my writing practice and revive personal goals that have been languishing I’ve decided to create a writing schedule. This isn’t meant to be something that is set in stone but rather a map that I can use to sort out what projects I can or should be working on. Broken down by week I’ve used the schedule as a place to create a list of future blog topics, keep track of paid writing gigs, and note due dates for academic writing projects. I’m hoping that this schedule will be a useful tool for managing my writing time. I can use it both as an idea bank and an organizing tool. It’s currently just a Google Sheet, so nothing fancy, but I think it has potential and I’m looking forward to seeing if it helps with some of the organization and creative roadblocks I’ve been bumping up against.
What tools do you use to support your writing practice?
I recently wrote a piece for the Canada’s History website about the Remember the Children: Photograph Identification Project that was started by the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. This is a project that is near and dear to my heart. It is one of the initiatives that made me realize the importance of community involvement in residential school archives, the power of images, and the many harsh realities of the intergenerational trauma.
Through this project the SRSC and CSAA have worked to connect communities and survivors with residential schools photographs and to identify people in residential school photographs. Having the opportunity to work with survivors and communities on this project has been a humbling and eye opening experience that I am very fortunate to have worked on.
Unlike in some previous years this December I didn’t participate in reverb or any similar end of year reflective writing practice. But I do want to look back at some of things that made 2015 a memorable year and my plans for 2016.
I helped organize the New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communications, and Technology in London, Ontario this October.
I reevaluated some of my teaching approaches when introducing students to residential schools. And I’ve started to take a more hands-on, interactive approach to instruction. Especially when working with high school students.
I’ve built new partnerships with colleagues, taken advantage of free professional development opportunities, and shepherded a number of new donations in 2015.
Continue to develop my academic writing practice. I did an okay job of sticking to a weekly writing regime in 2015 and want to keep building on that foundation.
Create meaningful learning opportunities for students who are working in the archive. I’ve been consistently trying to do this but I want to continue to focus on nurturing scholarship in ways that build skill sets.
Be active. This falls under my growing understanding of self-care.
I’m looking forward to being at NCPH 2016 this year. I’m presenting and helping with some of the membership committee events. This is by far my favourite conference and I’m sure Baltimore will be a fantastic experience.
In the past couple of years there have been a handful of writing in public projects which aim to illuminate the academic writing process, allow writers to connect with others, and demystify the labour that goes into writing.
For example Michelle Moravec’s Writing in Public project makes visual the process that goes into writing history. She publicly shares drafts and opens her writing to critiques and comments at all stages. And the #Acwri twitter hashtag allows academic writers to connect virtually and share progress in a public space. Similarly many academic use personal blogs or websites as forums for sharing ongoing research.
I’ve recently been sharing what I’m researching, reading, and writing on twitter. So far this has been a very positive experience. Often when I’ve tweeted about an article or something I’m writing people have responded by suggesting other authors or articles to look at. This has been valuable in connecting me with a larger community of academics and has been useful in generating reading lists. It has also been encouraging to engage in conversations around my research and to have a sense of being connected to other scholars.
Writing and research can be isolating. It is almost always a solo undertaking and it’s easy to become discouraged when you hit a roadblock or you’re working on a multi-month or multi-year project. Writing in public can help make this process more open and community based. Similarly talking about and stating your writing goals publicly or participating in a writers group where you need to report your progress can help if you have problems around commitments, timelines, and motivation. When it’s public knowledge that you plan on completing something by x date you’re more likely to honour that commitment than if it’s just a deadline in your head. So, on with the writing.
Letters to a Young Librarian recently had a great post on the idea and importance of peer mentors. Jessica Olin makes a great point about the value of having a support network and peers who you can turn to for support and honest feedback. Mentors can provide advice. But sometimes having those close relationships that you can openly discuss challenges with are more valuable than unsolicited advice.
Similar to peer mentoring I like the idea of peer nurturing. Anyone who has written for academic publications has probably revived a soul crushing, want to crawl into a hole peer review. These devastating reviews have a tendency to cause a whole lot of doubt — particularly in new scholars.
I get that we need standards and that bad research shouldn’t be published. Peer review has a place and purpose. But I think the idea of peer nurturing is also valuable. Helpful honest feedback that allows new scholars to gain skills and grow professionally is part of peer nurturing. Creating environments that allow people to correct mistakes, learn, and be part of an engaged conversation around their work is important.
A quality peer mentor relationship can provide this type of feedback in a safe space. Having that group of supportive colleagues can be crucial for new scholars.
In 2008 I started blogging at Historical Reminiscents. The original impetus for beginning that blog was an assignment as part of a digital history class. The blog was much longer lasting than the class and has featured over 400 posts since 2008.
This past weekend I imported all those old posts, had a domain registered (hurray for both kristamccracken.ca and kristamccracken.com being available), and installed WordPress on this new site. It feels a bit like the end of an era. But I’m going to continue to blog. All that’s really changed is the web address.