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.
This week the “How I Write” series features Thomas Geoghegan, the current Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the School of Medicine, as well as a faculty member in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He recived his BS degree in Biology from the University of Massachusetts/Boston, and PhD in Biological Chemistry from the M.S. Hershey Medical School associated with Penn State. Thomas Geoghegan joined the faculty at UofL in the Department of Biochemistry in the School of Medicine in 1979.
How I Write: Thomas Geoghegan
Location: UofL School of Medicine
Current project: Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Currently reading: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
- What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?
I began my career as a bench scientist (molecular biologist) writing papers and grant applications (not always successfully I might add). I also teach and of course needed to write lecture notes, study guides and test questions (again not always successfully). I no longer write scientific grants and manuscripts. I do however continue to teach and write reports of activities of our office. For a short time I also wrote a blog on graduate education (once again not always successfully).
- When/where/how do you write?
I mostly write in my small, cramped, and overly cluttered office.
- What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?
For the most part a pad and paper, and computer.
- What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?
Tip for getting started – get started; no really get started. People write differently but everyone has to get started. I’m big on getting something down on paper and editing the hell out of it. In fact I’ll spend 5-10 times more time editing than writing.
My best tip is to post a bullet list with principles of writing right in front of you. When you’re stuck (and everyone gets stuck) it refreshes your memory and get’s you started again.
One caveat; my son is a journalist/writer. He sits down to write and most of the time it comes out perfect, with few revisions. Proving that much to my dismay as a molecular biologist , it’s not all genetics (because I can never do that).
- What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Most of my serious writing is (or was) scientific. And the best advice I got was to “keep it simple stupid”. The more you try and elaborate, the more complex and less understandable your arguments are.
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