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On Writing and Writers

Published onJul 09, 2019
On Writing and Writers

Collected here are some of the best sources for writing tips that I have found. Some of them focus on the practicalities, discipline and rituals of writing (Becker, King, Eco, Curry, Silvia), while others reflect on the physicality of writing and the tools of the trade (Barthes, Ingold, Gordon, Krementz). One of the central debates focused on in this literature is intellectual value complex theoretical language (Adorno, Miller) as opposed to clarity in prose style (Orwell, Billig, Morris).

Sarah Kember and John Holmwood reflect on what is happening to writing in the changing digital environment, particularly focusing on the issue of making it available via open access. They question whether this is necessarily a progressive development and point to the financial limitations that are likely to restrict open access publishing. Sarah Kember’s work also offers a deep reflection on the possibilities of new forms of writing, as well of the confinements placed on academic authors today.

  • Adorno, Theodor (1978) Minima Moralia. London: Verso.

  • Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society. ALCS website

  • Back, Les. (2007) The Art of Listening. Oxford: Berg.

  • Barthes, Roland. (1973) ‘The Writer on Holiday’, in Mythologies. London: Granada, pp. 29–31.

  • Barthes, Roland. (2010) ‘An Almost Obsessive Relation to Writing Implements [1973]’ in The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962–1980. London: Vintage Books, pp. 177–182.

  • Becker, Howard S. (1998) Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Your Research While You’re Doing It. Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press.

  • Becker, Howard S. (2007) Telling About Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Billig, Michael. (2013) Learn to Write Badly: How to Succeed in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Curry, Mason. (2013) Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work. London: Picador.

  • Eco, Umberto. (2015) How to Write a Thesis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Geertz, Clifford. (1988) Works and Lives: the Anthropologist as Author. London: Polity Press.

  • Gordon, Mary. (1999) ‘Putting Pen to Paper, but Not Just Any Pen or Just Any Paper’, The New York Times, 5 July,

  • Holmwood, John. (2013a) ‘Commercial Enclosure. Whatever Happened to Open Access?’, Radical Philosophy, 181: 2–5.

  • Holmwood, John. (2013b) ‘Markets versus Dialogue: The Debate over Open Access Ignores Competing Philosophies of Openness’, London School of Economics Impact of Social Sciences, 21 October, available at:

  • Ingold, Tim. (2012) ‘In Defence of Handwriting’, Writing Across Borders – Writing on Writing, Department of Anthropology, University of Durham,

  • Kember, Sarah. (2014) ‘Why Write? Feminism, Publishing and the Politics of Communication’, New Formations, 83: 99–117.

  • Kember, Sarah and Zylinska, Joanna. (2012) Life After New Media. Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.

  • King, Stephen. (2001) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: New English Library.

  • Krementz, Jill. (1996) The Writer’s Desk. New York: Random House.

  • Lepenies, Wolf. (1988) Between Literature and Science: the Rise of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Miller, James. (2000) ‘Is Bad Writing Necessary: George Orwell, Theodor, and the Politics of Language’, Linguafranca: The Review of Academic Life, December/January, pp. 33–44.

  • Morris, Brian. (1995) ‘How to Publish a Book and Gain Recognition as an Academic’, Anthropology Today, 11(1): 15–17.

  • Orwell, George. (1968b) ‘Politics and the English Language’, in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters: Volume 4. London: Penguin Books, pp. 156–169.

  • Perec, Georges. (2009) ‘Notes on the Objects to be Found on My Desk’, in Thoughts of Sorts. Boston, MA: A Verba Mundi Book, pp. 11–16.

  • Rushdie, Salman. (1991) ‘Is Nothing Sacred?’, in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991. London: Penguin, pp. 416–429.

  • Silvia, Paul J. (2007) How to Write A Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  • Welty, Eudora. (1995) One Writer’s Beginnings. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

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