Camille, writing academically

​How to write 700 words in only two short days

Step 1 (2+ months before deadline): Get organized. Print and sort all papers I'll need for phase I of this project. No further action until deadline is imminent.

Step 2 (3 days before deadline): Wow. I haven't organized my file cabinet in a while.

Step 3: Read one paper. Sigh over impenetrable academic language. Why can't we just write like normal people?

Step 4: Sort through notebooks from undergrad and clean up my inbox. Update course materials for next trimester and get a jump start on syllabi revisions.

Step 5 (2 days before deadline): Read rest of papers. PSA to 95% of authors + the reviewers who let this shit slide: WHY must you write like this? There is a way to convey complex topics clearly and without all the jargon and circuitous reasoning. Help? Please?

Step 6: Have not wiped down the stand where we keep all of the spices in a while. Must get on that. Also notice that walls around the kitchen table look like we have two small kids and a dog living here. And, doors are a bit grimy. Carefully avoid inspecting bathrooms.

Step 7: Begin sorting papers by theme and picking out important concepts and quotes. Realize this is only the tip of the iceberg. Also realize that I'm completely unqualified to write, speak or have an opinion on this topic. How did I ever get hired? Become aware that I'm unclear on the topic and purpose of the paper we're writing. Shoot me now.

Step 8: Console myself with the guess that a maximum of 5 other individuals have ever been able to wade through any of these papers and perhaps another 5 will read whatever we wind up publishing.

Step 9: Catch up with Facebook, Twitter and outstanding messages in online courses. Consider organizing lecture notes by theme and making a master list of exam questions compiled from 7 trimesters of past exams. Decide not to do this: too much work.

Step 10 (Day of deadline): Write. Gnash teeth. Why the hell does it take so long to write one f'ing sentence? Pretty sure I am bastardizing the work of these probably esteemed researchers in the act of condensing complex material. The very fact that I don't know if they are esteemed or not indicates that I shouldn't be writing on this topic.

Step 11: Shit. I just used the word "indeed."

Step 12: Continue writing under duress. Get into flow. Why did I put this off for so long? Writing is fun. Organizing ideas is satisfying. I'm bringing order to chaos and forming cogent and important arguments. I make sense!

Step 13: Snap at spouse and/or children for interrupting. Feel guilty. Remain locked in office until further notice. Order take-out for dinner because contents of fridge include one bunch of decrepit cilantro, beer and possibly moldy yogurt.

Step 14: Edit. Edit more. Edit again. Continue to find errors. Cut horrifyingly large chunks of material. More editing.

Step 15: Submit draft to co-authors. Imagine worst-case scenarios involving public ridicule, outright rejection and/or the sudden realization that I really, truly have misunderstood the point of the paper.

Step 16: Ice cream.


Hi there. I’m Camille. I’m an associate professor at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology and pathophysiology. I’m also a licensed nutritionist, specializing in fertility and reproductive health. (I’m not taking any new clients!) Lastly but not leastly, I’m a mom, a gardener and a really horrible housekeeper.

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