Course/masterclasses for PhDs, postdocs and creative academics
Many students have creative talents: they have a way with words, with rhythm, with fictional and personal examples, with narratives and storytelling. Many of those very same students, when pursuing PhDs and postdocs later on, sadly end up doing remarkably little with their creative abilities. Many of those become academics who write as clearly, but also as boringly, as they possibly can.
At the same time, writing for non-specialist audiences and having experience in writing blogs and op-eds are skills that are increasingly valued on the job market. Also, having experience in non-academic writing helps with writing successful research proposals.
Most important of all, writing for larger non-specialist audiences allows one to dare to think out loud, to try out new ideas, and to engage in a broader range of conversations. Finally, writing in more creative ways is simply a lot of fun and can play a fundamental role in one’s overall academic well-being.
In this course (for masterclasses see below), you will specifically be trained in creative academic writing. The ‘creative’ component has two sides: first, you are encouraged to get creative in terms of writing for non-specialist audiences. This includes exploring areas beyond your academic comfort zone whilst staying true to your area of expertise. Second, you will learn to engage in actual creative writing and will learn how to incorporate fiction writing strategies and methods into your academic work.
The course is deliberately heavy on the practice and light on the theory. Sessions will include brief lectures in which participants get information and concrete advice about the “do’s and don’ts” of creative academic writing and engaging with non-specialist audiences, as well as how to work towards publishable popular articles and where and how to submit. The main obstacles to mastering the skill of creative academic writing, however, typically involve finding and trusting one's own creative academic voice, dealing with creative inconfidence, finding the time and setting priorities. The weight of this course is thus on getting one’s hands dirty, which will be done both in terms of home assignments as well as working on the spot during sessions. Participants will receive detailed and constructive feedback on the go, both from peers as well as the lecturer.
Course set-up and overview
This course is offered as an online course by default. An on-location version of this course is also possible, if interested please contact me for more info. Each session takes approximately two hours including a short break. The course is offered in English or in Dutch.
Session 1: Getting started
Choosing a topic that both resonates with a non-specialist audience and that one actually cares about is half of the work, but it’s hard work. This session will be devoted to learning how to choose a good topic, what constitutes a good topic, how to narrow it down and choosing a title that is both accurate and triggers potential readers.
Session 2: Starting with a bang
Clickbaits or not, the first sentences of any creative academic piece are key. We will consider concrete examples and openings that work and don’t work. Participants will learn to work with a successful ‘opening template’ and will write two different openings of their prospective piece.
Session 3: The beef
How do you get from the concrete to the general or the universal? How do you zoom back out once you’re zoomed in, and vice versa? This session incorporates narrative and creative writing methods in order to tackle the big challenge of how to keep the reader’s attention and say what you want to say—even if your message is complex and theoretical in nature.
Session 4: Writing outside the box
In order to find and trust one's own style and voice, participants will learn to freestyle and deviate from standard strategies and templates by engaging in creative fiction writing. An experienced fiction writer will be joining as a guest lecturer for this session.
Session 5: Closing words
In this session we will consider different strategies for ending a creative academic piece successfully. We will consider, for instance, ‘round’ endings, ‘hanging’ endings and ‘cold’ endings (after A.L. Snijders' "koude verbindingen") and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Participants will write two different endings to their piece.
Session 6: Rewriting
How do you get from a solid first version to a polished and submittable piece? On the basis of detailed feedback by the lecturer on the 1.0 version, participants will learn how to rewrite their piece. This process importantly also includes helping participants how not to get bogged down and dealing with ‘revisor’s block’.
During the course participants will work on one piece, which can be (1) an op-ed or a blog, (2) a creatively revamped fragment of specialised writing (such as a chapter/paper opening) or (3) a freestyle assignment (in consultation with lecturer). Depending on the chosen set-up of the course (i.e. the number of sessions), participants will upon completion of this course either have made (1) a good start for a piece to finish on their own, post-course, (2) a solid first version, (3) a finished 2.0 product with an eye on submitting.
Separate masterclasses are also possible. The aim of the masterclass is to get a taste of creative academic writing, covering parts of sessions 1 and 2, rather than working towards a near-finished article or essay as in the course. The masterclass starts with a lecture on popular and creative academic writing; what they share and how they differ. After a break, participants will read their own and others’ (pre-submitted) titles and opening sentences, discussing what works and doesn’t work and why.
Over the years I have given numerous training sessions and masterclasses in philosophy blogging and science communication, among others at the University of Antwerp, the Technical University of Eindhoven, Utrecht University, as well as sessions for the Honours Academy and Research Master in Philosophy of my own university – aside from the standardly implemented blog assignments in my own courses. I have co-authored a popular philosophy book on the self which was used as a high school textbook, and I am the co-founder of the popular Dutch philosophy blog Bij Nader Inzien (On Second Thought), for which I was its editor-in-chief. I write articles for the main Dutch newspapers (NRC, Volkskrant, Trouw) with regular intervals and write monthly reviews of popular philosophy books for Trouw. Occasionally, I engage in public philosophy on the radio or on TV. Since the pandemic, I have started to take fiction- and poetry writing seriously and am currently working on a book on mountain philosophy and a novel, which I should not have mentioned in order not to jinx the process.
Registration, costs & tailored options
The course is open to all academics from any discipline. If you are interested in attending the above course or masterclass(es), either for yourself or for your graduate school/department, please send me an e-mail at fleur @ freedom . nl with an indication of preferences with regard to a) days and times, b) format (course/masterclass), c) language, and d) brief indication of your aim and (if applicable) prior experience.
The full online version of the course of 6 sessions is €600 per participant (on the basis of 8 participants). For a 3-session version of the course the costs are €420 per participant (on the basis of 8 participants). Masterclass costs in consultation (depends on group size).
NB: Costs for this course can often be reimbursed for people employed at universities, so please check with your university and/or graduate school. There is a 30% discount for PhD students who are unable to get the costs reimbursed.
Feel free to contact me in case you want to discuss other/tailored options either in regard to creative academic writing or for one-on-one support with making grant proposals/presentations accessible and appealing to non-specialist audiences.