Writing style gone awry: learning your writing style and sticking to it

One thing I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to take part in when first coming to Aarhus University would be a class on writing styles and tips to survive the Danish academic system. It sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t know how to write a paper? It seems pretty simple; you read, you sit down, you write. All the while getting a full night’s sleep and starting very early in the morning. And in the end you have this beautiful completed masterpiece that you turn in and get on with your life. Unfortunately, my academic career at AU has never been like this. If that is the ideal picture of how to write a paper, I am on the complete other side of the universe. My writing style usually ends up something like: I read, I read more, I read far too much and get distracted from what I was originally supposed to be reading about, I start writing but realize I need to read more, READ EVEN MORE, write, writewritewrite staying up all night to try to catch up (numerous nights in a row), spend the last week with a diet of energy drinks and chips, finally hand the paper in right at the deadline and crash. Sounds glamorous, right?!

So normally with entries on Hey you, AU, here is the point where we offer some really great advice or tips on how to NOT become what we have (or to become what we have? As you like.) – but unfortunately, as you can tell from my writing style, I’m certainly in no place to give advice in this subject area on how to get a proper schedule down. That being said, part of my routine this semester has been to try to get a schedule. I tried going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 6am to get a really great start on my day. I thought an early start would help me get focused and a full night’s sleep would me stay focused until it was time to shut my brain off and relax and get some sleep. Much to my dismay, it usually just ended up like this for me:

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You see, as much as I thought the whole getting up bright and early would’ve been beneficial, I simply could not just “shut off” my brain. I would lie there thinking about all my papers and subjects and everything I should remember for the next day and end up getting terrible sleep, making the next day less productive. And to make matters worse, some of my best ideas came while I was lying there trying to NOT think about everything. In fact, I would argue that ever since high school, most of my really great ideas for my papers have come around 3am (not necessarily the night before the paper is due, just meaning that staying up late is when I get most creative). Therefore, after an entire semester of fighting the way I’ve grown accustomed to writing during my almost entire academic career, I’ve finally given in and have gone back to my “normal” schedule, which allows me to not only feel more comfortable with my writing but also actually shows some progress with some of the papers I’m working on.

That being said, thought I may not be in the position to offer advice on how to change your writing style or how to find the perfect one, I am able to offer a bit of advice, based on my own experiences. My advice for the other full degreers out there who are maybe just starting with their writing career at Aarhus University would be to do what you know – if you have a style that works great for you, stick with it. Even if that means that you’re spending the night in the library and going home when your friends are going to school, embrace it! Grab a tea or coffee with them as they are coming and you are going, then head home and get some sleep. It’s crazy to me that we have become so trained to believe that a certain style can be wrong when it works so well for you as an academic. Of course the job world does not function the same as it does when you’re a student… but the shift from student to full-time employee is drastic anyway. Might as well save it all until then!

And with that, I’m off to more work. Defining Scandinavian postmodernism can’t simply be done in one night, you know!

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