Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Prof. Logan Connors on managing multiple writing projects and how “writing makes you a better writer.”

Logan Connors, Assistant Professor of French

What writing project(s) are you working on right now?
Right now, I'm writing an index as well as publicity materials for my upcoming book, Dramatic battles in eighteenth-century France: philosophes, anti-philosophes and polemical theatre. I'm under the gun--the book is set to be released this summer by Oxford University's Voltaire Foundation! I'm also working on an outline for my next book, a critical edition of France's first patriotic tragedy, Pierre De Belloy's Le Siège de Calais. Besides those two big projects, I've got some conferences in Europe this fall (I'll be on leave in Paris next academic year) that I am starting to brainstorm. I also have an article on eighteenth-century prisons that is due in the early fall--it's in the very early stages. Busy times, I guess!

What do you love about it?
I love the fact that my first book project is finally coming to an end. Dramatic battles has been in the works for five years and it feels great to see it come into fruition. I also love the brainstorming process for new projects. I feel that all ideas are on the table and anything is better than nothing at this point!

What about it (if anything) is driving you nuts?
I'm pretty sure that indexing is one of the most excruciating jobs in the world! A big thanks to Sarah Schaefer ('14), my research assistant, who is helping me tremendously with that! Another tough thing is the moment when loosely organized ideas need to become concrete sentences and paragraphs. Funny how this is always a time when it seems incredibly important to clean my desk or check baseball scores online. 

How would you describe your writing process?
Before coming to Bucknell, I had the opportunity to work with Simon Harrison ( Simon was my housemate and co-worker at the Ecole normale supérieure in Lyon, France; he was also my writing partner (highly recommended for anyone who needs to be held accountable for his/her writing!). Back in 2007, Simon and I were both struggling with our dissertations so we read a bunch of books about how to be more productive writers. The suggestions for how to write more (or better) can be all over the place but there is one piece of advice in most of the literature on writing: you have to write often to achieve desired results. I think there are these myths like "you should wait for inspiration" or "you need a huge chunk of time to get anything done." This may be true for some people (although I doubt it) but not for me; I try to carve out at least 30 minutes - 1 hour each day and write. It may sound bizarre but you'd be surprised what you can get done in just 30 minutes. I guess it took me about a decade to learn that you need to actually write to achieve good writing results. Duh!

What kind of feedback on your writing do you find most helpful?
I think my favorite type of feedback is what I would call "optimistic honesty." Optimistic because the reader knows that you can do better but honest enough to really let you know if an idea (or paragraph, or sentence) is solid. My dissertation director at LSU was, and remains, a fantastic model of "optimistic honesty" (Kate Jensen:$Content/Jensen?OpenDocument). 

I write in English and in French and I really appreciate when my French readers whip out the red pen and go to town on me. I have to say, they usually tack more towards honesty than optimism. 

What would you like students to know about you as a writer?
I think that my students appreciate how open I am about the writing process. I'm always harping on them to "start early" but I share my own weaknesses and fears about the whole process (and the fact that I need to set artificial deadlines for myself because I don't just naturally start early!). I guess the number one thing that I would like them to know is that I was a very unsuccessful writer in college. I started projects too late, I didn't take the time to read the directions, I didn't revise, and I certainly didn't proofread. I struggled for years and I struggle now. But I want them to know that writing makes you a better writer. It sounds very basic but it's true. Talent is great but anyone can learn to write better if they write more often.

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