Monday Motivation #87 (1/24/22)
English is such a weird language! I’ve been wracking my brain lately to try and guess five-letter words to solve the daily Wordle puzzle. I keep getting stuck at points where I’m sure there’s no possible word that matches the pattern, as I go through all the possibilities in my head. Then I realize things like “crown” and “grown” don’t rhyme, and “proxy” really is a word, and that words can end in double consonants. I can usually figure out the solution before exhausting my six guesses for the day, but not always without some internet sleuthing!
Falling down the word game rabbit hole (idioms are also weird!) makes me long for the predictable spelling and grammar I often found when studying other languages. In fifth grade I took Latin, and remember vividly being certain that my teacher had made up the idea of conjugating verbs just to make our lives difficult. It took a while to figure out that “conjugation” just meant matching verbs to their objects, but once I figured out the patterns it became pretty easy to match new verbs using the same methods.
English is not so straightforward, and my daily struggle to Wordle (see how I made that noun into a verb?!) makes me appreciate the tremendous effort that so many in our graduate community make to live and learn in a new language. In an academic environment, where our communication skills are often judged by external reviewers and disciplinary experts, the pressure to write right (!) can be intense at times.
In my EGR 993 (Engineering Research Writing) course, we spend a lot of time talking about the sense of being an imposter that many of us feel when we sit down to write about our work, and ways to make writing projects more manageable. This week, I’m sharing some ideas and resources for improving your own communication skills.
Three Things to Try This Week
Change your Perspective — staring at a blank screen, trying to craft the perfect abstract, or sifting through reviewers’ comments are all uncomfortable, un-fun parts of academic writing that lead many of us to procrastinate. But what if we change how we think about these writing tasks? This author describes how adopting a new perspective helped change the way she thinks and feels about academic writing.
Change your Workflow — I’ve shared before that I keep a red, plastic tomato on my desk. It’s a kitchen timer that makes a satisfying “tick-tick-tick” sound as it counts down, with a bright bell ring at the end. I use it to implement the “Pomodoro” technique to shake up my routine and push me past procrastination.
Change your Tools — the internet, while an endless source of distraction from writing, can also be a great place to find new tools to improve your writing. From grammar checks to organizational tools to focus-finders, there’s an app for that! Check out this list of ideas for improving your own writer’s toolbox.
- Need some RCR training hours, or help with figuring out the best methods for your research? Check out the list of upcoming events hosted by MSU CSTAT (Center for Statistical Training and Consulting).
- Annual reports for 2021 are due in two weeks (February 6); everyone who has completed 9 or more credits at MSU towards their graduate degree is required to submit a report about their activities in 2021, and their plans for 2022. Find detailed instructions and answers to frequently asked questions here.
- Have you checked out the new Graduate Student Wellness Center yet? Stop by 2420 EB any weekday between 8:30am and 4:00pm; if the keypad light is green, the door is unlocked and you’re welcome! There’s a cupboard filled with snacks, lunch items, and MSU swag — all free! Comfy chairs, a table for working puzzles or playing cards, and a kitchenette where you can make a cup of tea or heat up your lunch.