Five Words I Avoid When Talking About Writing
As writers, we know the words we use matter. But what about the words we don’t use? The way we frame our thoughts matters. So what are some words I avoid using as a writing coach?
In doing a little reflecting on what makes me different as a writing coach, and what my philosophy is about, I had a light bulb moment. Sometimes, what you don’t say (and why) defines your attitudes and actions as much as what you do say. So, on this episode of The Academic Woman Amplified I’m sharing 5 words that I avoid in relation to writing, and which words I choose instead.
Word #1: Bootcamp
This word is the opposite of what I try to espouse for a writing practice and a culture of academia. It brings to mind struggle, physical endurance and even pain. I believe we need to move away from this kind of emphasis on struggle in our writing lives.
“In the culture of academia we spend way too much time glorifying struggle, glorifying busy, glorifying overwork.”
This word still implies an intense experience, and a writing retreat is focused and isolated from our daily lives. But instead of struggle, it emphasizes intentionality, gentleness and calm.
Word #2: Balance
This is a tempting word, isn’t it? It sounds like something we all want. In reality, it implies that all the areas of our lives fall on two sides of an equal plane, and that it’s possible to simply bring them to equilibrium. But our lives aren’t that simplistic, and our whole, authentic selves don’t fit on a see-saw. And if you finally do reach a spot that feels “balanced”, it feels like a failure when something inevitably tips that scale.
I prefer to look at this process as management; taking the whole of our lives into consideration and making decisions grounded in our values, and what matters most right now.
Word #3: Accountability
This word is hard to avoid, it’s used a lot in writing circles. But I find this word disempowering. It suggests that you need an outside force to make decisions for you and your writing, and I just don’t believe that.
What we do need is community. When you are in the presence of people who share your values and ‘get’ you and your work, accountability as a taskmaster falls to the wayside. (I am still in favor of positive reinforcement for yourself–bring on the sticker charts and celebrations!)
“Community solves the accountability problem.”
Word #4: Productivity
Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of producing more work; helping you write and publish more is my main goal. But, I am not in favor of the lock-step, one-size-fits-all, mass production that this word always makes me think of. We are not machines, we don’t do cookie cutter work, and I am not about tricks or hacks to squeeze more and more out of you.
When we write, we create. Bringing new ideas into the world is what we do. And while we want to be prolific, we also want to be innovative. The word creation is self-affirming and powerful.
Word #5: Self-Care
Now, I don’t want to get rid of this word altogether. As a matter of fact, I think taking care of ourselves is of top priority. But this particular word has been twisted to make us think of bubble baths and candles, things that are a luxury rather than a necessity.
In reality, self-care should encompass a whole range of absolutely necessary activities that help us maintain our careers and ourselves as whole human beings.
Maintenance is not optional. It’s something that must be kept up on to keep functioning. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, or to make your own career a priority.
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