Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.
Dr. Siobhan E. Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Louisville. Her research interests involve minority matters in the media, and her single-authored projects explore portrayals of race and gender in reality television. She teaches Introduction to Mass Communication, African Americans in the Media, Television Criticism, and Reality TV. She is a proud graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana, Louisiana State University, and the University of Missouri. Siobhan enjoys watching trashy reality TV and reading.
Location: Now? At my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Collierville, Tennessee. For my writing? Usually, on my couch, with trashy talk/reality/court TV on in the background. I have found Snapped marathons on Oxygen and Law and Order: SVU marathons on USA to be very stimulating background fodder.
Current project: Here’s just a few (!): I am very blessed to collaborate with several of my colleagues on very intriguing research. I am still working with my friends in Communication, Pan African Studies, Sociology, and Anthropology on our NIH-funded project, which explores healthy food habits in Louisville and Hopkinsville. I’m also revising a manuscript with my mentee that is an analysis of MTV’s The Shop, revising another with two awesome colleagues from Social Work and Sociology that explores Black men’s use of popular culture to make sense of their romantic relationships, and putting the finishing touches on yet another with my Communication colleagues which will hopefully go out before school starts. In my head, I’m kicking around some individual projects, but they are in their beginning stages and I’m too shy to share those just yet. 😉
Currently reading: Club Monstrosity by Jesse Petersen. It’s a funny and quirky read about modern day monsters (e.g., The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster) who have a support group, and then they start being murdered. Whodunnit?!
- What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?
As you can see from above, usually collaborative research projects. I will do my homework when I work with my friends because I don’t want to let them down. UofL is an AWESOME place for building relationships and friendships. I’m working on being as diligent for myself.
- When/where/how do you write*?
I try to write a little bit every day. But I’ve gotten away from the idea of filling up a blank space with words every single day. Although, if you want to publish, that is a necessity sooner than later. I count meetings, discussions, etc. as time toward my writing. Anything that helps me get closer to that pub counts. Revising a manuscript, looking for literature, etc. When I answered “Location” above, I mentioned my love of my TV and my couch. While not good for my neck or my back, I’m too lazy to drive 20 minutes to campus to work in my office, and apparently too lazy to clean up the “office” in my apartment.
On a good day, if I don’t have any distractions (the TV doesn’t count b/c it’s my friend), I can literally write for hours (eight or more), from early afternoon to early in the morning. I’ve read that this “binge” writing isn’t good, but I feel a supreme sense of satisfaction when I can see what I have accomplished – whether it’s several new pages of manuscript, many freshly read articles, etc. I admit to being frustrated when I get hungry or need a bathroom break, b/c I get into a groove and don’t want to stop until I get to a good stopping place.
- What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?
My TV, my laptop, articles annotated and ready to go, and excitement for where a project might take me!!! Sometimes, if I get frustrated w/ a particular section or idea, I’ll write it out and then type it up.
- What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?
As one of my professors at Mizzou told me about getting started: Just start! Write a paragraph of the intro, do an outline, start reading the literature. Do it! Then you just have to finish it.
For revision: Work on one section at a time and give yourself rewards before you go to the next. You can cat-nap, check your e-mail, call your friends, etc. Don’t get beside yourself w/ those rewards, however. Time them (15 minutes is probably enough).
Give your manuscript to someone you trust. I have a few people I can do this with. It’s great to have another pair of eyes help you see things you couldn’t and help you think through things that were driving you insane.In general, set reasonable goals.
And remember, whatever you’re doing ALWAYS takes longer than what you originally planned.
- What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
HA- I think ALL of these things I’ve mentioned came from someone else. For those needing to publish research, Belcher’s book (Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks) is a dream. But I would say, figure out what works best for YOU, and do that. If you like to work in a coffee shop every day, great. If you have to work quietly in a locked room, fine. Do you! Schedule time for your writing, and be good to yourself when you accomplish your goals.
Best of luck to you in your writing endeavors! Don’t forget the little people when you strike writing gold…