restricted access 16. Carving Out a Writing Life in the Discipline of Rhetoric and Composition: What We Can Learn from Writing Faculty
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16 Ca r v i n g O u t a W r i t i n g L i f e i n t h e D i s c i p l i n e o f Rh e to r i c a n d C o m p o s i t i o n What We Can Learn from Writing Faculty DOI: 10.7330/9781607326625.c016 As a collective, the interviews appear to offer two contradictory insights about how writing faculty write. On one hand, successful writing faculty do adopt similar viewpoints toward academic writing and use shared writing techniques as described in the Introduction’s “Patterns for Analysis.” Interviewees approach the writing process with similar attitudes of acceptance toward the complexity of composing and joy toward building a writing project, and use strategies of thinking rhetorically, invention strategies that scaffold writing, and “quick focus” to efficiently make forward progress on projects in small writing times. On the other hand, though there are clear patterns in the way writing faculty approach writing for publication, the interviews also reveal there is also an incredible amount of diversity in the way faculty follow these broad patterns. For example, though faculty write in short segments during the day, the pace of writing differs as some compose rapidly in bursts when enchanted with a new idea (DeVoss, Yancey) and others make slow progress by writing a little each day (Blair, Enoch, Selfe). And though faculty may take the long view of the composing process and accept that writing needs an incubation period, they use that period much differently: such as, Rickert finds a better focus for a project using revision, Yancey switches to another project, Roen switches to another section within the project, and Harris walks his dogs and thinks about writing. These are very diverse snapshots of productive and satisfying lives in our discipline. In 2012, Helen Sword surveyed a thousand academic writers from all disciplines and found that the most successful did not write in the same way: “There’s not just one way to be productive. Books and articles on ‘how to be a productive writer’ tend to be very bossy. They give you all these hard and fast rules, like you must write an hour a day, every day, for instance. What I’m finding as I talk to people, though, is there is a wide variety in the writing habits and practices of successful academics” 146   How Writing Faculty Write (Sword as quoted in Brown 2014). The finding that writing faculty don’t vary a great deal in general attitudes and habits, yet adapt similar practices in widely diverse ways to local employment contexts, career stages, family circumstances, and individual preferences for writing, suggests our disciplinary hegemony does affect writing for academic publication within the discipline. So, what can this assortment of interviews teach us about how rhetoric and composition faculty carve out rewarding writing lives and how our discipline affects how we write? One overarching message stands out: writing faculty experience and practice writing as a process. This may seem obvious and perhaps clichéd, as we “know” that writing has many phases such as prewriting and revision and that revision and editing are different processes. But as a field we have come a long way since Louise Phelps (1998) argued that the term “process” historically was subject to shallow definitions when rhetoric and composition was still defining itself as a discipline. Conceptualizing writing as process on a deeper level, in the way writing faculty talk about it in this collection, recognizes writing as a complex, messy, and individualized process or series of processes subject to influences from historical context, identity, education, and more. This conception of writing as a process defines the modern discipline. In Threshold Concepts, a collection of beliefs and practices in the field of writing studies as defined by leading scholars in the field, Alder-Kassner and Wardle note that contributors recognized an overarching master “metaconcept” where all threshold concepts stem: writing is simultaneously “an activity” (i.e., a process or series of processes) and “a subject of study” (Adler-Kassner and Wardle 2015, xxvii). Though Alder-Kassner and Wardle rightly note that not everyone within our own field may agree that writing is a subject of study, the recognition that writing is a process threads through virtually all of the threshold concepts that follow. This concept of writing as a process is one we frequently instill in students...


Subject Headings

  • College teachers -- Interviews.
  • Manuscript preparation (Authorship).
  • Academic writing.
  • College teachers as authors.
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