100 Words

If you write just 100 words a day, in 2,5 months you’ll have a 7,000 word article. Anybody can do 100 words a day. The problem isn’t that people don’t have time to write but that they don’t know what to write.

The fellow who was giving yesterday’s teaching workshop said, “I always knew I wasn’t a great scholar, but I’m a damn good teacher.” And it’s true, he is. He digs talking about teaching like I dig talking about research. At the teaching workshop, everybody was taking notes about the teaching suggestions while I was rewriting the thesis statement for my new article. And I ended up with a good working statement I can now proceed to develop. I will be submitting the article on September 30.

In all honesty, I have had so much training in pedagogy that the activities this colleague was suggesting were very old news to me. But in order easily to sit down and write that 100 words a day, you need to inhabit the world of your readings and ideas all day and every day. Then it becomes easy to churn out text.

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16 thoughts on “100 Words”

  1. I know, if I remember correctly, that you’re not a fan of the disciplines of Ethnic Studies and Sociology. I really don’t agree with you about this, but I’m curious what you think about the academic field of foreign language pedagogy and second language acquisition theory.

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    1. The problem with the field is that it came up with everything there was to come up with 50 years ago. And since then, people have desperately tried to justify their existence by inventing tons of seriously ridiculous ideas.

      What do you mean by ethnic studies that I don’t like? I’m all for African American studies or Hispanic Studies, obviously. Or things like Middle Eastern studies. These are great, serious disciplines. African American studies at my school kick ass.

      I’m for gender studies in theory but I never saw a single department that wasn’t completely useless.

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      1. Re SLA, I started learning languages 50 years ago with the then-new methods and I find most people are still trying to catch up to the level of expertise my teachers had. And re-prove the methods they had just learned, back then. But there are a couple of things I think are newer, although it’s not my field. 1/ You can in fact have native, heritage, and non-native speakers in the same classroom — it isn’t a question of native or not, it’s a question of level of language; 2/ The goal isn’t to produce someone who’s like a monolingual native speaker, the goal is to produce a multilingual person. Whereas in my upbringing the secret assumption was that you were only going to acquire one language and you would always have the impossible goal of becoming native.

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        1. “there are a couple of things I think are newer”

          Yes, there are innovations but the proportion of publications, conferences etc to innovation is very out of whack, tons of research and papers and conferences etc for millimeters of change.

          It’s very similar to translation theory, where again vast amount of writing and publications go on with very little content, there’s a core of theory that translators need but it’s a tiny sliver of the actual publications out there.
          Meanwhile, the interesting parts of translation (dealing with particular problems that arise in real world translation) is mostly ignored.

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          1. “tons of research and papers and conferences etc for millimeters of change”

            This sums it up perfectly.

            There also seems to be a need to wrap simple, practical ideas in tons of theories. It seems like no one can just do a straightforward “hey, here’s a good way to teach this topic” or “hey, here’s another way to get your students to talk more”. Language courses do need a variety of activities and cultural content that feels fresh, so there will always be need for these practical sorts of things, but half the presentation doesn’t have to be rehashing of all the theory that proves that your good teaching idea is a good teaching idea.

            I think there is need for more research into the best ways to incorporate new technologies into language teaching because there are tons of options, some are good, many are total crap and it always takes a bit of a time investment on my part to figure out whether the shiny new thing is good or crap. But that’s also very practical sort of work and there’s no need for a ton of new theory.

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            1. And yet folks who specialize in this nothing burger field are in huge demand and everybody is desperate to hire them. Even though they contribute absolutely nothing whatsoever of value or substance.

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          2. There’s interesting philosophical work about translation but it’s not new. And current translation theory seems meaningless / pointless

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  2. I believe you recently linked to an article from Inside Higher Ed about college students taking and passing one course in ethnic studies and how this predicted their chances of graduation. The text of your hyperlink referred to such courses as having little meaningful content–I don’t remember how your phrased it. Of course, I might be mistaken about this, or I may have misinterpreted your hyperlink.

    I don’t like a lot of what contemporary gender studies offers–you lose me when you begin to talk about lady penises and how men too can get pregnant (regardless of whether or not these perspectives are “valid”). I much prefer Women’s Studies from the 1980s, before it morphed into Women’s and Gender Studies.

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    1. I don’t remember the link but obviously it’s easier to graduate from the “talking disciplines” than from ones that require actual work. In my field, there’s a language barrier but if you speak Spanish, it’s a walk in the park to graduate compared to fields like biology, math, physics, etc.

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      1. …at schools where they just pass you for speaking. I studied with all these scientists, the less talented of whom thought they could improve their GPAs by taking an English class because they spoke English, or an art class because anyone could draw (they said), and were sorely disappointed

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        1. That’s where I am. We allow native speakers – not heritage speakers but real native speakers – to take advanced conversation and crap like that, just so they wouldn’t have to take literature. I’ve been fighting this for years but I’m powerless. We are finally going to make it a requirement to take one (1) literature seminar for a major in Spanish. So how hard is it to graduate if all you have to do is show up and chat in your own language about the weather?

          I know you agree with me. I’m just venting a decade-long frustration. Let’s see how many students register for my course on Cervantes when there are all these easy alternatives.

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          1. And in English? It’s even worse. Professors promote their courses by saying that there won’t even be an essay to write and all the readings are short stories. Instead of an essay, students do things like write online diaries. In their own and only language! That’s a freaking joke if you ask me. But obviously nobody is asking.

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            1. God, you’re right, this happened when the rhet-comp people took over. I am not 100% sure what to think about literature, STILL. I majored in it to learn language, history, culture, not because I was so much of a lit fan. I’d have plowed through historical or philosophical tracts if that had been the required reading. Did plow through a few, like Sarmiento, Ortega y Gasset, fairly early on. It was from teaching language that I figured out Why Literature — it isn’t just that it is well written and gives a lot of exposure to the language. It is that fiction is easier to read, poetry is fun and makes you think about sound, plays can be put on, and essays can be debated … literature just works better than newspaper or scientific articles, say, and it can be approached from different points of view, and it improves the Spanish of native speakers as well.

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  3. To the original topic of this post, you’re quite right, it’s the living and breathing, and THAT is the point that should be made to all the people who are hawking academic advice about discipline, time management, and so on.

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  4. Yes, this is the best advice and should be given to every assistant professor. I made this goal for myself last December and I’ve written more than 23,469 words so far. Some days I write almost exactly 100, some I write more, but I can almost always manage 100. If I miss a day it is easy to start back up.

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  5. I still think the “uppermost in mind” point is the key one, whatever the word count target is. Uppermost in mind is what makes you able to always come back to the project, work on it in the midst of other things, and so on. I always had research uppermost in mind in school and thought it was what I should keep having, and was dissuaded later; tried to solve the problem with time management, project management, etc., to great frustration because I was never undisciplined or impractical. The key is what you allow yourself to keep uppermost in mind (and also whether or not you allow yourself to trust yourself, which for me follows close on that, but is a separate and different project).

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