Blog Post

Writing Is Hard

Writing Is Hard

Last week, at a Mellon convening, I learned about a remarkable project between Johns Hopkins and Community College of Baltimore County local community colleges in Baltimore, including 40-hour a week writing  Lab.  At this lab, four people share a screen, and work together on each other's writing. How to write a thesis statement and find your argument. How to organize research. How to organize ideas. Feedback on all that. No big news there. 

However . . . on some of the screens, available for all to see, were the doctoral students working together on their dissertation proposals and chapters.  On other screens,   full professors worked on their books, proposals, abstracts, grants . . . side by side with community college students who got to see how hard writing is, even for full professors at Johns Hopkins.

Today, a brilliant former doctoral student of mine, now a renowned science writer, sent me a detailed critique of this iteration of a science fiction novel I'm writing. It is chock full of right-on the-mark, right-on-target feedback. The novel has been through three thorough rounds of revision and I anticipate three thorough next rounds (at the very least). These generous, tough criticisms will help me get there. I'm lucky. A number of other brilliant people have kindly also offered to read my draft. I anticipate an avalanche of other responses. I'm challenged, excited, and inspired.

And as I read this first critique, I kept wishing I had one of those "shared screen" set ups for every community college student I'm working with now, for every doctoral student, to show how we all work, and rework, and re-re-rework, our writing and, if we are really lucky in life, we find readers willing to be both tough and generous so we can learn and be inspired.

#humbled #grateful #writing #inspired #learning #teaching


Image:  Sisyphus by Pietro della Vecchia (early 1600s) courtesy of Wikimedia -


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