Sorina I. Crisan, PhD
The 10 Writing Rules: Advice from Author Jenn M. Jackson, PhD
Are you struggling with writing and publishing within the field of political science? If so, do not worry – your struggle is understood and shared by many other peer writers and aspiring published authors, within the academic setting and beyond. To help inspire and get you moving in the direction needed to finally write and publish your best work, here are ten writing rules and some valuable advice offered by experienced political science writer and author: Jenn M. Jackson, PhD.*
Interview by Sorina I. Crisan, PhD
Dr. Jenn M. Jackson (she/they) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, at Syracuse University. Dr. Jackson is a Co-Host/Producer of the podcast called, That Black Couple, and a Columnist at TeenVogue.com. Their research is in Black Politics with a focus on group threat, gender and sexuality, political behavior, and social movements.
Dr. Jackson, thank you for taking part in the Persuasive Discourse interview series. As a starting point, it would be interesting to know: What is your perception of the writing process?
Writing is a habit. It's something we train ourselves to do well through muscle memory. Writers write. And, the only way to get it done is to get through it with gentleness and grace.
In a short period of time, you have written several books alongside successfully managing your academic career and ensuring happiness in your personal life. Could you share some words of wisdom and advice regarding your writing process?
A lot of people have asked me how I managed to write two books in one year while parenting three free Black children, teaching college students, and living under a white supremacist state. I'm not going to provide any "produce or perish" tips or techniques but I do have advice.
Writing Rule 1
Protect your writing time fiercely. Don't feel ashamed or guilty when you have to choose writing over other things (except rest – always get your rest). It's a craft. It has to be a priority. It has to be a daily practice.
Writing Rule 2
Plan all of your writing. This means taking notes, journaling, valuing your thoughts and thinking, spending time in quiet with yourself, and believing [in] yourself. Most of writing (good writing) is in pre-writing and post-writing (editing). Don't skimp here.
Writing Rule 3
Join a writing community (or two or seven). My writing really took off when I began running my own writing groups. Now, I run them about six times a year. They are a form of accountability and they naturally create a timetable and structure.
Writing Rule 4
Share your writing with people you trust who will thoughtfully and carefully challenge you to push yourself. These are not detractors and naysayers (avoid those). These are supporters who believe in the work, the vision, and the goal/s.
Writing Rule 5
Do your research. Read more. Take a class (for free if possible). Attend authors' talks. Absorb as much information as you can about the craft and practice of being a writer. Many are free and give you front row access to writers, publishers, and editors.
Writing Rule 6
I can't emphasize this enough: BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE STORIES IN YOU.
You are the only person who can express your truths. Only you are able to write your truths. So, write them. And then release them.
Writing Rule 7
Submit to the process of writing. It can be lonely and isolating. But, it should never be something you do out of obligation. If it feels forced, stop. It might be painful or hard because it's challenging. But, it should never be forced. Some people disagree with me on this.
Writing Rule 8
Write what makes you happy. Write what freely flows from your body. Write what is easily discoverable in your psyche. Don't write about people, places, things, and experiences that aren't yours and that you don't understand. Write from a place of authenticity.
Writing Rule 9
When you are done writing, when you're tired, spent, exhausted, stop. Take breaks. There is no shame in exhaustion. It's the body saying that it needs rest. Listen.
Writing Rule 10
And, last but not least:
Edit as praxes. Edit after you've gotten it all out on the page. Read it over again. Is it what you meant? Is it true? Is it honest? Is it fair? Is it just? Ask yourself these questions.
And, then edit some more.
Based on the aforementioned words of wisdom, here are three ideas of action steps that you can take today to help with your writing process.
1. Look up and join a writing club, in order to:
a. share your work,
b. help others struggling with the writing process, and
c. get feedback on your writing.
2. Look up and join a writing class to get some inspiration and learn.
3. Schedule your writing time in your calendar and do your best to honor it by showing up to write, at the agreed upon time.
Now it is your turn! For which of the rules will you take the required action steps today?
Every and any step, regardless how small it is, can take you closer to where you want to be. I hope that the words of wisdom shared in this article by Dr. Jackson will inspire and help you to take action today.
And, most importantly, as Dr. Jackson says:
"BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE STORIES IN YOU."
Thank you for reading.
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Jenn M. Jackson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs
Are you inspired by this interview and would like to learn more about Dr. Jackson's work?
You may follow Dr. Jackson’s work on Twitter, Instagram, Linktree, or on her personal website. Please consult her latest work by accessing her academic profile page with Syracuse University. You may also listen to her voice and words of wisdom, on the podcast: That Black Couple Podcast.
Do you want to learn more about the topics covered in this interview?
Consult Dr. Jackson’s publications on Google Scholar.
For a quick view, here are some of Dr. Jackson’s latest publications:
Jackson, Jenn M. (2020) “Private Selves as Public Property: Black Women’s Self-Making in the Contemporary Moment” Public Culture, DOI: 10.1215/08992363-7816317
Jackson, Jenn M. (2019) “Black Americans and the ‘crime narrative’: comments on the use of news frames and their impacts on public opinion formation,” Politics, Groups, and Identities, DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2018.1553198
Jackson, Jenn M. (2018) “Breaking Out of the Ivory Tower: (Re)Thinking Inclusion of Women and Scholars of Color in the Academy,” Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy, DOI: 10.1080/1554477X.2019.1565459
Dr. Jackson’s forthcoming book:
BLACK WOMEN TAUGHT US (Random House Press, 2022)
* Special Note: The article has been written in the form of an interview, based on tweets written and published by Dr. Jackson, on October 9, 2021. This article has been written only after having received written agreement regarding it, from Dr. Jackson (in private email communication between Dr. Jackson and Dr. Crisan). Please make sure to share any and/or all of the writing advice offered by Dr. Jackson with your community of aspiring or established writers. Dr. Jackson’s original tweet links are provided after each advice/rule. A special thank you to Dr. Jackson for agreeing to share her experience and wisdom on Persuasive Discourse.
Illustrations by: The main article photo is by jeshoots.com, downloaded from Unsplash, courtesy of Wix.com photo gallery. The profile photo used on this page is made available on Dr. Jackson’s personal website.
Like and share this interview with your community. And, let us know which of the writing rules and advice spoke most to you, in the comments section below.