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Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write

by Helen Sword Harvard University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 280 pages
AU$62.99 NZ$63.47
Product Status: Out of stock. Not available to order.
From the author of Stylish Academic Writing comes an essential new guide for writers aspiring to become more productive and take greater pleasure in their craft. Helen Sword interviewed one hundred academics worldwide about their writing background and practices. Relatively few were trained as writers, she found, and yet all have developed strategies to thrive in their publish-or-perish environment.  


So how do these successful academics write, and where do they find the “air and light and time and space,” in the words of poet Charles Bukowski, to get their writing done? What are their formative experiences, their daily routines, their habits of mind? How do they summon up the courage to take intellectual risks and the resilience to deal with rejection?  


Sword identifies four cornerstones that anchor any successful writing practice: Behavioral habits of discipline and persistence; Artisanal habits of craftsmanship and care; Social habits of collegiality and collaboration; and Emotional habits of positivity and pleasure. Building on this “BASE,” she illuminates the emotional complexity of the writing process and exposes the lack of writing support typically available to early-career academics. She also lays to rest the myth that academics must produce safe, conventional prose or risk professional failure. The successful writers profiled here tell stories of intellectual passions indulged, disciplinary conventions subverted, and risk-taking rewarded. Grounded in empirical research and focused on sustainable change, Air & Light & Time & Space offers a customizable blueprint for refreshing personal habits and creating a collegial environment where all writers can flourish.

Preface: The House of Writing
Introduction: Building the BASE
I. Behavioral Habits
1. Finding Time to Write
2. The Power of Place
3. Rhythms and Rituals

II. Artisanal Habits
4. Learning to Write
5. The Craft of Writing
6. The Other Tongue

III. Social Habits
7. Writing for Others
8. Writing with Others
9. Writing among Others

IV. Emotional Habits
10. The Pleasure Principle
11. Risk and Resilience
12. Metaphors to Write By

Conclusion: Raising the Roof
Afterword: Beyond the House of Writing

Helen Sword does it again. In an age of academic doom, she inspires. Here she manages to be both data-driven and delightful: you have to read to see how she combines so much evidence and so much pleasure. She makes you want to consume creative academic writing - not just hers - and to try to produce nothing less.
Helen Sword is Professor and Director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland.