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.
Lara Kelland received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012, and joined the history department at the University of Louisville in 2013. Her teaching, research, and community-based work are the intersection of U. S. and comparative history, public history practices, and digital history methods.
Current project: Digital History project on the 1950 nationalist uprising in Puerto Rico
Currently reading: Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?
Of late? Book revisions, blog posts, exhibit text, grant applications, and working towards a new monograph project on Puerto Rico
2. When/where/how do you write?
It depends. Sometimes at my campus office desk, sometimes at a standing desk at home, when the weather is particularly friendly, an Adirondack chair on my front stoop has been especially productive of late.
3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?
Information organization strategies are important, so I couldn’t live without google drive or dropbox for research files and cloud storage for documents. Tea is important, even though I’m a coffee fiend most mornings. Music is a vital component too. In most cases, jazz is my writing soundtrack choice, with proclivities towards Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Oscar Peterson. The improvisational tendencies in jazz get my creative juices flowing. When I first read this question, somehow I imagined that “snacks” were on the list. So, I guess, snacks are also recommended.
4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?
JUST DO IT. Sometimes I start writing while I’m on my daily walk to campus. I use the notes tool on my iphone and I outline my ideas or even sometimes start writing prose.
5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Also? JUST DO IT. I believe the preceptor with whom I worked on my master’s thesis said something like: Barf on the page. You will clean it up later. (pardon the crass wording, but it’s a very effective metaphor, I find)
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