Yesterday I was at a writing masterclass given by Professor Heidi Mirza. It was part of my Professional Development sessions at Goldsmiths and Heidi very kindly spent 2 hours with us discussing her journey into academia and answering our many, many questions. I was incredibly impressed with Heidi – so personable, kind and generous. At the end she summarized her writing tips into a ‘top ten’ and I thought in the spirit of collaboration and academic teamwork that I’d share these more widely. I’d also highly recommend reading Heidi’s work or attending one of her lectures (she once rapped an inaugural lecture. Respect).
Professor Heidi Mirza’s Top Ten Writing Tips
1) Break writing down; imagine the contents of a book and break this down into even smaller sections, around 5000 words each. Make essay titles out of these small sections and build up your thesis by writing little, bite-sized chunks of it.
2) Writing is a process – stop perfectionism!
3) Take your broken down list of chapters/essay titles from tip 1) and pin it up near your desk. Tick off the mini sections as you do them. This will give a visual of your progress which is both encouraging and cathartic.
4) Write anything and go back to ‘fix’ it later. Write as if you have no audience – make it a stream of consciousness task; Franz Fanon’s writing is a good example of this in action.
5) Fit writing in with you own time – when does it work for you to do writing? Don’t think you have to work to the same schedule everyone else seems to. Make writing time work for you.
6) Read for inspiration – not just heavy texts but other linked texts. Hone in and be an expert on your (small!) area.
7) Network – set up a writing group to share your work and discuss the processes. Support each other
8) Write for fixed periods: no stopping, no thinking, just write.
9) No judging – of yourself or others. Have no shame attached to your writing
10) Collaborate – but with ground rules (re. publishing). Good for sharing ideas/perspectives/burden
All in all, Heidi’s tips were very useful. Some I had considered already but hearing them come from someone rather higher up the food chain than me sort of allowed me to do things that I thought I shouldn’t be doing. Heidi’s advice really gave permission to work very freely but in a structured, focused way.
BSA PGF Co-convenor