Research Writer Interview With Howard
PhD Program Teaching
Hello Howard. Let's begin with some background. Who are you as a writer? In other words, tell me about your sense of self-identity and how it applies to academic writing.
Well, I've had a number of professional and academic experiences that demanded different kinds of writing. When I was in the Air Force, I had to write performance reports for subordinates, and I wrote a couple of short technical articles for trade publications. Later, when I was an undergraduate, I wrote papers in all my psychology classes, and the Master of Education degree in counseling involved a lot of intense writing. Then, once I started working in a mental health clinic, every client I saw brought a raft of assessment and planning paperwork. All that was nothing compared to the writing I had to do in the PhD Program. So, with all that background, I guess it's safe to say I have a fairly strong sense of myself as an academic writer.
What do you find most challenging about writing in the multi-disciplinary academic context?
Actually, I enjoy it. I think I would find writing about the same subject a pretty dreary experience.
When did you realize that writing was such a strong part of you that you would start doing it professionally?
I guess I always knew. It was obvious to me that people I worked with and studied with felt overwhelmed by something that comes to me naturally. That impression was intensified when I started teaching college classes and found that most college students seem to lack even rudimentary writing skills.
Where did you learn your knack for writing?
Whenever I think about that, I remember my father. I can't say he wrote much, other than personal letters, but he always seemed to be reading, usually more than one book at a time. So, when he spoke, it was the voice of an educated man. He thought in complex, compound sentences. Few people demonstrate an equivalent level of sophistication in their written grasp of the English language as that which he used in daily conversation. So, writing came to me easily, because I grew up hearing language used the way it was written.
How do you manage to keep coming up with new approaches to writing assignments?
That's related to the way I tackle most problems. I enjoy finding innovative ways to look at things and develop new perspectives about them. One reason I have for wanting to do this kind of writing is it allows me to be an independent researcher, well-read in the fields I find interesting. So, it has more to do with learning about new aspects that carry an inherent requirement for novel descriptions as a way to communicate to one's audience that things are no longer what they once were.
Why limit yourself to academic freelance writing? Don't you sometimes want to create the "Great American Novel?"
When I was young, I used to think I would write fiction. I thought it might be possible to help make the world better by communicating with people in that genre, but that was idealistic youth. Now, I'm not saying that's impossible, but I am pretty sure I will want to keep doing academic writing and gradually expand the areas in which I have expertise. The world is such a wonderful place, and there is so much to discover that I doubt I will ever get serious about making things up. I would rather devote my time learning and writing about the world as it is than fantasizing about some other reality.
Random writer: /writer-ruth