Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Writing While Law Librarianing

Being on the tenure track is hard for everyone. It's really hard for law librarians because we have so many roles to fill. We often have our administrative library roles, as well as the teaching, research, and service required of faculty. Writing tends to be the thing that gets cast aside as other, more pressing concerns carry the day.

For the last few years, I've designed my weeks to write on this blog and a couple of others because I enjoy learning and thinking about the profession. Being required to write full-length law review articles or book chapters has been a good change of pace because it allows me to dig deeper into a topic, but it is much harder to carve out the time and attention necessary to write a full-length piece.

Last weekend, I finally submitted a book chapter for publication in a forthcoming book called Millennial Leadership in Libraries. My chapter covers creating a leadership philosophy. I had been working on it since April, and it was a challenging, yet rewarding process - most of all because it got me thinking about my own leadership philosophy.

The process was also good for what it taught me about fitting full-length pieces into my everyday work. Admittedly, a lot of the writing happened on weekends when I had more time to fully devote to it. I suppose that's why it's so important to find a topic that interests you. Otherwise writing will feel like a chore and become an over-extension of the work week and ultimately cause burnout.

A couple of points of advice for anyone undertaking a full-length writing project as a law librarian:
  • Choose a topic that interests you - This cannot be overstated. 
  • Find a writing project with a reasonable deadline - I find that a deadline means that I make it a priority. 
  • Keep your writing muscle toned every day - After outlining, a full-length piece is naturally broken into shorter, more manageable subparts. Choose a subpart and devote a set amount of time to it each day.
  • Choose the best time of day for you to make progress - I can't start writing until after my first cup of coffee. But I need to start before there are too many demands on the day. This will be different for everyone, but make sure to carve out the time and guard it.
  • Have a RA help with the citations - Because of the various demands on my day, I focused on spending writing time working on the substantive parts of my chapter. I provided my research assistant with enough information in the footnote to know where the source came from, and I provided the original sources. This was well worth the money, and I'll never go back if I can avoid it. 
I spent just enough time on the book chapter to be happy to see it go off to the editor. My writing muscle is toned to the point where I am excited to maintain it by delving into another full-length piece on a different topic. Hopefully I can follow my own advice. 

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