Happy Doc Student Podcast

#30 Is the Secret to Writing Well Learning to Fail? with Louie Centanni

June 02, 2021 Heather Frederick, PhD Episode 30
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#30 Is the Secret to Writing Well Learning to Fail? with Louie Centanni
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Happy Doc Student Podcast
#30 Is the Secret to Writing Well Learning to Fail? with Louie Centanni
Jun 02, 2021 Episode 30
Heather Frederick, PhD

Learn tips and tricks that will make writer’s block a thing of the past!

Louie Centanni, MFA, is a lecturer at San Diego State University and has been teaching writing, rhetoric, and composition for over a decade. He is also an online writing consultant at the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, and as a writer, he has published several short works and essays. When the global pandemics aren't killing everyone's social lives, he tours as a standup comedian. 

  • It's a lot easier to make bad writing good than to make no writing!
  • Writer’s Block – Does not exist – it is just an excuse for the fact we are terrified our writing doesn’t sound good.
  • Writing is like any other skill: Practice, fail, practice, fail.  Do not be afraid to fail. Our society teaches that failure is the worst thing ever, and it's not. 
  • Failure is feedback. Don't take it personally; laugh at yourself.

Tips:

1.     JUST DO IT! Start writing anything that's on your mind, even if it's bad; just get some words on the page.

2.     Write first, edit later (pretend like your delete key does not exist).

3.     Make an outline; have a plan.

4.     Then, ask yourself, what do I need to do in each sentence? 

5.     Write what you think you need to write, then show it to someone for feedback; feedback is information that will help you get on track. 

6.     Do not take feedback personally – this is a common theme on many of the episodes and if getting feedback is tough for you, listen to episode #18: “How to Feel Good about Feedback with Dr. Kelly Stewart” https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8063165

7.     Beware of imposter syndrome (we spoke about this on episode #9 “The Dissertation Shift with Todd Fiore” https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/7242724 

8.     Do not try to sound smart, do not attempt to “dress up” your writing. The BEST writing is CLEAR writing. 

9.     Follow templates if you get stuck (see the resource below).

10.  Turn off Facebook, your phone, email – ANYTHING that can distract you (remember those grey activities that Mark Woods talked about in episode #6: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/7136806

11.  Resist cleaning your house (see #1)

Resources:

Happy Doc Student Swag: https://www.bonfire.com/store/happy-doc-student-podcast-swag/

They Say/ I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Berkinstein: https://amzn.to/3uqog0g

 Grammarly:  https://grammarly.go2cloud.org/aff_c?offer_id=3&aff_id=66812&source=website

Support this free content and buy Heather a yummy green tea: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/expandyourhappy

 

 

 

Show Notes Transcript

Learn tips and tricks that will make writer’s block a thing of the past!

Louie Centanni, MFA, is a lecturer at San Diego State University and has been teaching writing, rhetoric, and composition for over a decade. He is also an online writing consultant at the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, and as a writer, he has published several short works and essays. When the global pandemics aren't killing everyone's social lives, he tours as a standup comedian. 

  • It's a lot easier to make bad writing good than to make no writing!
  • Writer’s Block – Does not exist – it is just an excuse for the fact we are terrified our writing doesn’t sound good.
  • Writing is like any other skill: Practice, fail, practice, fail.  Do not be afraid to fail. Our society teaches that failure is the worst thing ever, and it's not. 
  • Failure is feedback. Don't take it personally; laugh at yourself.

Tips:

1.     JUST DO IT! Start writing anything that's on your mind, even if it's bad; just get some words on the page.

2.     Write first, edit later (pretend like your delete key does not exist).

3.     Make an outline; have a plan.

4.     Then, ask yourself, what do I need to do in each sentence? 

5.     Write what you think you need to write, then show it to someone for feedback; feedback is information that will help you get on track. 

6.     Do not take feedback personally – this is a common theme on many of the episodes and if getting feedback is tough for you, listen to episode #18: “How to Feel Good about Feedback with Dr. Kelly Stewart” https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8063165

7.     Beware of imposter syndrome (we spoke about this on episode #9 “The Dissertation Shift with Todd Fiore” https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/7242724 

8.     Do not try to sound smart, do not attempt to “dress up” your writing. The BEST writing is CLEAR writing. 

9.     Follow templates if you get stuck (see the resource below).

10.  Turn off Facebook, your phone, email – ANYTHING that can distract you (remember those grey activities that Mark Woods talked about in episode #6: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/7136806

11.  Resist cleaning your house (see #1)

Resources:

Happy Doc Student Swag: https://www.bonfire.com/store/happy-doc-student-podcast-swag/

They Say/ I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Berkinstein: https://amzn.to/3uqog0g

 Grammarly:  https://grammarly.go2cloud.org/aff_c?offer_id=3&aff_id=66812&source=website

Support this free content and buy Heather a yummy green tea: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/expandyourhappy

 

 

 

Louie Centanni: [00:00:00] I think the number one thing , that we can do as,  writers  to feel better about this process is to realize that our professor doesn't hate us and they're not doing this because it's personal. 

You're listening to the happy doc student podcast, a podcast dedicated to providing clarity to the often mysterious doctoral process. Do you feel like you're losing your mind? Let me and my guests show you how to put more joy in your journey. And graduate with your sanity, health and relationships intact. 

Heather Frederick: [00:00:34]  

Today I'm so excited to welcome Louie Centanni to the show. He is a lecturer at San Diego state University and has been teaching writing, rhetoric, and composition for over a decade. He is also an online writing consultant at the University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center, and as a writer, he has published several short works and essays.

But the thing I love most about Louie is when the global pandemics aren't killing everyone's social lives, he tours as a standup comedian. Welcome to the show, Louie. 

Louie Centanni: [00:01:08] Thank you very much for having me, Heather. 

Heather Frederick: [00:01:10] So this juxtaposition of scholarly, academic writing and comedy is so interesting to me because if there's one area that really causes so many doctoral students, both headaches and heartaches, it is darn it,

learning how to write academically. 

Louie Centanni: [00:01:26] Yeah, it's writing academically, comedically, whatever it may be, people fear it. People think that there's some sort of a skill that gets handed down to people that can do it. And,  if you haven't been touched by the lightning bolt from above, then you just have to struggle.

But a lot of it is is similar in terms of process.  I always tell people the, the majority of, of what you have to do is just do it. And failure, failure, failure until you succeed. It puts a lot less pressure than expecting yourself to succeed, right when you start.   

Heather Frederick: [00:01:59] Faculty will tell students there's going to be revision after revision, after revision.

Right. And we try to like set the stage. , you're not going to sit down and create this perfect piece right away,  how do you help students get started when they're just staring at that blinking cursor? What kind of advice do you give them? 

Louie Centanni: [00:02:18] Well, the   blinking cursor is probably one of the scariest things ever for most students.

And I think in, in that way, I think computers have hurt students from the days of typewriters and handwriting. Because in the old days you would just write something down. You couldn't erase it off the page. So at least you had something  down there. And I often tell students it's a lot easier to make bad writing good than to make no writing

perfect. And so how do you get started? I tell students just start writing anything that's on your mind, even if it's bad and, and just get some words on the page to begin with.  Then the second thing I tell them is now ask yourself, what do I need to do in each sentence? Because if you know what each sentence is supposed to be kind of gearing toward, then you,

you limited the options of what you need to worry about writing. Honestly writing jokes has helped with a lot of this because if I know that this line needs to set up a punchline, then , I don't have infinite things to write anymore. I now have to write a set up line and that's so much easier than if I'm just writing one sentence and then saying, now I need another sentence, now I need another sentence.

Heather Frederick: [00:03:23] Okay. 

So let's talk about this parallel  because, I'm guessing most people out there listening to this, haven't written a joke. I've never written a joke. I try to be funny. I don't know how successful I am  but every once in a while I get a chuckle. Talk about this parallel between writing a scholarly work and writing a joke.

Louie Centanni: [00:03:40] So I think the, the writing process, you wouldn't see much parallel in how I do them because when I sit and write a scholarly piece, or when I write a long academic text and I'm sitting at my computer, I have a cup of coffee.  I'm trying to keep my dog quiet, things like that. When I'm writing jokes, oftentimes I'm walking around and talking out loud, but I think the revision process is where they cross over a lot.

In a weird way, because when you, as a comedian test out your joke, you're on stage in front of strangers. And if it's not good, they tell you right away, they, they, they stare at you blankly. They don't laugh. And that's your way of knowing, Oh, that needs work. Academic writing doesn't have that luxury or that, that terror.

And on the other hand. But, if we can turn it into that sort of fearless process of saying I know I need to do this in this paragraph. I'm going to write what I think I need to do. And then I'm going to show it to someone, whether it be an instructor, a resource like a, like a tutor, an editor, a friend who's in your program.

Because once you get the feedback, if something's working or not working, it's such good information to know how to make it work. Whereas, if you're not asking, if I never tell my joke before I go on stage, then I have no idea if it's actually good or not. And it's the same with academic writing. You don't know if the writing is succeeding, if you haven't shown it to people and redrafted it.

Heather Frederick: [00:05:06] And you know, I think that's one thing that It sometimes seems like new information when I'll say to a student, Hey, do you have anyone at home you could ask to read this, or could read it out loud to them maybe while they're cooking dinner and just ask them if it's making sense, or what is it that they think you thought you just said?

It almost seems like this new idea, but   I will often have situations where when I'm talking to the Student, I understand exactly what they're trying to say, but then when they put pen to paper or, you know, that's the old school way, I guess, right. When they start typing it out, I say, but what you just wrote, isn't what you just said.

 Sometimes there's this disconnect 

Louie Centanni: [00:05:43] it's and, and I think it's, it's that fear of the imposter syndrome. Students feel like if I'm just talking in my own voice, I'm just me. I'm not a scholar, I'm not an expert. And so they fear that if they don't dress it up with purple prose and all these fancy vocabulary words, then they're going to be exposed  as frauds.

And what ends up happening is they write these long winding sentences that don't have direction, don't have proper structure. And in the end, I look at my students a lot and I'll say things like, you know, what are you trying to say here? They'll tell me. And I'll say  write that. Because, you know what sounds academic? Writing

that makes sense. That sounds a lot more academic than writing I can't understand. 

Heather Frederick: [00:06:24] Yes. I love that. I will often say one hallmark of scholarly writing is that it's clear and concise. Don't confuse your reader. Just say what you need to say. Don't be afraid that it doesn't sound extra smart or extra intelligent.

I think that is this imposter syndrome. It's interesting. Right? Because there's this idea that it has to sound like I'm working on a doctorate. 

Louie Centanni: [00:06:47] Right. I need to prove myself to the reader. Whereas the reader is trying to get the information, the readers aren't reading your work and constantly every sentence saying, is this person real?

Is this person real? They're trying to get the information. They're picking up the text because they want to get into the field too, or they want to get into the conversation. And so, yeah,  I think the big issue for a lot of students. And it's just when, when people use the term writer's block, I don't, I don't believe there's a thing called writer's block.

I don't think it really exists. I think it's a human construct that we've made to, to sort of make an excuse for the fact that we're terrified that our writing doesn't sound good. So we write a sentence, we read it, we hate it. We delete it. And then we're stuck at the beginning. Again, we write another sentence that doesn't sound right.

Either delete it. And then  it's so Sisyphean to push that stone up the Hill to have it keep rolling back down to the bottom.  When I'm sitting and writing with a student and helping them try to get, like you say, pen to paper, oftentimes I'll say, okay, this sentence needs to broadly introduce the topic.

Go. They'll write something. And before they have a chance to read it, I say, we're done with that. Now we need to narrow down in this introduction to the next sentence. And my goal is to get them to stop that self-criticism so that hopefully they get five sentences down. Then you can take a pause and see if it's going in the right direction.

Because again, it's so much easier to turn five bad sentences into five good sentences than it is to turn zero sentences into anything.

Heather Frederick: [00:08:18] I think that is such a critically important strategy that I don't think we are taught to just start writing. A couple of years ago, I heard a webinar by Michael Hyatt and he said, think of writing and editing is two separate things.

Louie Centanni: [00:08:34] Yes. Oh, yeah. 

Heather Frederick: [00:08:35] So sit down and write. And I am the worst self editor. I do exactly what you say. I write a sentence and then I read it and then I obsess over it and then I change it and a half hour goes by and maybe I have three sentences or maybe I say, Oh, it's just not happening today. But this idea of you can take something and make it better.

Get something on 

paper. 

Louie Centanni: [00:08:54] Yeah. It's it's true. remember when I taught Composition at the entry-level  into universities. I found this book, they say, I say by what's, what's the author's name? Birkenstein I'll have to look that up. I don't, I haven't read it in a while, but the, the concept of the book was to enter an academic conversation.

You always start with what they, the experts say, and then you come out with what I am going to bring to the table. And what I found was that even when I started teaching higher levels you know, upper division graduate, It's exactly the same kind of stuff. And their whole premise was if we give you templates to enter this conversation, you can revise away from our words later, just get it down in this sort of accepted way.

And none of it was complex.  One of the templates I remember was on one hand, comma blank. On the other hand, comma blank. And those little tiny things that students feel might be too obvious. Can get you going, writing stuff on your topic.  

Heather Frederick: [00:09:53] that sounds like an amazing resource. And I'll,  make sure that's in the show notes for sure.

Because often what I see is almost book, report style writing, where it's just what they say. 

Louie Centanni: [00:10:05] Yeah. 

Heather Frederick: [00:10:06] And there's no, but what do you make of this? Or it's just one sided. So I love this idea of on the one hand, because we know in any field there's going to be conflicting information, right. And part of your, your job as a doctoral student is to get this information together, analyze it, synthesize it, and then write about it in 

your own words.

Louie Centanni: [00:10:25] Yes.   and this is something that comes actually from the book. it's gets Graff and Birkenstein. Or Birkenstein possibly. I don't, I don't want to talk about their book and not give them credit. Gerald Graff and Kathy Berkinstein. They have two or three additions now, maybe, maybe even a fourth, but they do talk about how most students get in this trap where they think that writing is, I need to write one sentence about something I know about this topic. They do.

Then they say, now I need another sentence about something I know about this topic, right? They do. Now I need another sentence about something I know, and it ends up leading to this rambly feel where the paragraphs lose focus. Their argument gets lost in the sea of just fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. And they're not actually, like you said, contributing their voice to this conversation.

And so it tries to sort of give  these templates and  these ways that you can start looking at, how can I incorporate the information I have with my opinions and my very valid thoughts on this matter, because that's where the academic writing comes. And again, really think that instead of saying, what do you want to write asking yourself, what does this next sentence need to do?

Is such a powerful way to make writers feel like they're taking bite-size tasks instead of tackling an entire assignment at once. And if I could just like give one example of that. Let's say a student knows that their paragraph needs to start with you know, a claim or a topic sentence. Right? Okay.

So write something, that's making a claim. Good. Now they know I need to present evidence. Okay. So how can we phrase the evidence in a way that we look back at that first sentence and this sentence is supporting that sentence. So just one sentence at a time, then I always tell my students after you've given evidence, maybe spend one sentence, interpreting that evidence, pretend your reader.

Doesn't get your last sentence. How can you say it? In other words, That really. Okay. In other words, they say it again. Now you have three sentences that you haven't had to like, just go from your own knowledge base. Right. And from there  the next sentence needs to analyze why this matters.

And if you keep asking these individual questions of what does this sentence need to do, you'll end up with a six to eight sentence paragraph. That is, that is fine before, you know it, and that's a lot less intimidating than saying write eight to 10 pages or whatever the heck  the overall assignment is.

Heather Frederick: [00:12:42] I love the idea of almost like following a recipe Instead of sitting down and feeling lost, you go, okay, I'm going to do this. And then before you know it, you've got a paragraph and you might even go onto your next paragraph and save editing for a whole 

nother day.

Louie Centanni: [00:12:55] And,  I think it was, was it Ernest Hemingway who famously would never end his writing sessions at the end of a chapter. He would always go to the next chapter and start writing because when he sat down the next day, he wanted to make sure he wasn't looking at a blank page. And I've always liked that idea of, of starting in the middle because it's a lot easier than starting from scratch.

Heather Frederick: [00:13:16] So let's talk about this. You brought up earlier  we know the computer can be very helpful in terms of writing lengthy papers yeah.  However, sometimes I encourage people when they're have this quote unquote.

Now I know writer blog writer's block doesn't exist. I love this. I love, I love learning new things from every guest. Do you ever suggest putting pen to paper and going old school?  

Louie Centanni: [00:13:40] Speaking, honestly, I've tried to go old school and I think more about how much my hand hurts, then the ideas that I'm trying to

to write. So I don't think it works for everyone and I'm a bit of a hypocritical Luddite. I claim I hate technology, but then I use it for everything. I have a smart home here. If I talk to my Alexa, all my lights are gonna turn on. So when it comes to the computer, I do think that's probably the best tool for writing long compositions at this level.

I do think though that  there are things that you need to do to set yourself up for success on a computer. And that involves number one, not looking at your backspace key. I think that's a really important piece of advice I give students is don't delete now. Like you said earlier, you can delete later.

You do not need to delete as you go. So take the backspace key erase it from your memory. Okay. I also think a huge one and nobody wants to hear this is you have to turn your internet browser off unless, or just, or just only have the research app. You can't have Facebook, you can't have ESPN. You can't have whatever else  email, you, if you see that you got a new email, it's so tempting to be midway through a sentence and go.

Thank God I have something else to do.   And then I think the third is   phone needs to be on silent. You need to vow not to dust or vacuum instead of write. We used to joke in grad school that our houses were never cleaner than when we needed to write something because you sit at your computer and you go, you know what,

I can dust that first. And the next thing you know, the house is clean three hours later. You haven't written a word. 

Heather Frederick: [00:15:08] Yeah. Because we all know how to dust the living room, but we're not so sure we can pull off a scholarly 

paragraph.

Louie Centanni: [00:15:15] Yeah. And you can, I mean, people don't get to these levels because, they can't do it. They

 might not feel confident yet. And that's fine. You know, I was thinking about that last night, about my first day at my writing consultant job. I remember I was introduced to everybody and I know writing, I know what, you know, I've done this for years, but I remember sitting in meetings and they would talk to me about plans  I had no idea what they were talking about.

But that's just how life is,  as you learn more, you become more comfortable with your expertise. And it's the same with writing.   When you sat on a bike for the first time and rode, you probably wobbled, but after a while, you knew how to ride it without thinking about where your feet went and where your hands went.

And the more comfortable you get writing just by failing over and over falling, getting back up, falling, getting back up, you, you fall less . 

Heather Frederick: [00:16:01] You know, and I think one thing that will happen at the doctoral level is students will write papers and yes, of course they're going to get feedback, but they're not necessarily having to revise that paper in a course, it might be a final paper.

Right. And so they're getting feedback and they're like, Oh, okay. I need to work on transition sentences. I need to be clear. I need to learn how to cite APA better, but off they are to the next class. Then you get to your dissertation and your doctoral project. You're looking at that same chapter for months.

Louie Centanni: [00:16:30] Maybe  that's our fault as educators for not giving more assignments that that could be revised over and over.  Yeah, you're going to have to revise a lot more.  And maybe this is a mindset I've developed over time after experiencing some success.

But I tend to think that the notion that you can write something and have it not be great and you get a chance to rewrite it, that's comforting to me.  That's not extra work because to me that means I can, for lack of a better way of saying it, I can just kind of throw something on the page and then worry about it later.

Push it down the road a little bit for a procrastinator. That's a really nice thought. You know, that I can write a sentence and I don't have to worry about it right now. I think there's something nice about that because I know that when I revisit it in a day or two days or whenever, or after I get someone to comment on it, I can make it better.

 I think of  buildings, there's architects who draw up the plans and the people test out the materials. They don't just sit there one day and all do it in one fell swoop. And as a writer, you get to kind of be all of those parts

to your paper. And so be the architect, have an outline, think about how you want it to go. Then kind of be the contractor. See if, if the order of your paragraphs is going to make sense, and then  be the inspector and go back and look, did,  this work, is this right? And do it all one at a time because it's a lot less intimidating than biting that whole thing off at once.

Heather Frederick: [00:17:55] So I'm curious as a consultant, do you sometimes have to almost be a little bit of a personal coach or dare I say therapist, when people come to you shattered and feeling completely deflated because  back comes this paper just full of comments?

How do you help people manage kind of this feeling of I'm like, gosh, I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to write the way they want me to write.  

Louie Centanni: [00:18:22] I would say that my role as a consultant is almost more behind the scenes than student facing in a lot of ways. So I don't really get that too much at that level.

But as an instructor who my students kind of grow to trust, I do get students returning to me after they've taken my class, with papers that are bleeding red and Hey, what do I do about this? And the first thing I often tell students is the more comments you have, the more, you know exactly what your professor wants.

So just listen to them. Don't take it personally. I think the number one thing , that we can do as,  writers  to feel better about this process is to realize that our professor doesn't hate us and they're not doing this because it's personal. The professor might be really, you know, precise and particular about what they want.

And maybe it's too much for you to feel comfortable. But  even if you're out of school, you're writing for someone . And so you're always going to be graded in some sense. And so using those comments as a guide is, is not something to be diminished as a person.

You don't feel like I'm a bad writer. Feel like, okay, they're giving me signs of how to get where they want me to go. I think you could say that about a lot in life. If you just don't take it personally detach the personal attack and just do what is in front of you, then, then things tend to go your way a lot more often.

So yeah, just listen to the comments  and do them and,  work with what feedback you've been given.  I can give another comedy analogy. I've written several bits and jokes where I just loved the joke. And I thought it was so funny. And no matter how many times I get on stage and tell it nobody's laughing.

And at some point you have to not take that personally.  You have to look at the crowd and say they don't hate me. They just don't like the joke. And so let me fix the joke. And I think one of the beauties of comedy is that  it's sink or swim. Nobody can be nice to you. Nobody can give you a courtesy laugh

that actually sounds real. Whereas an academic writing, you can have friends that look, and that sounds fine. And you find out the hard way from your professor or whatever that it's not. . So it's about just  being vulnerable and being willing to turn something in as a draft.

Because you don't want to wait until the end, like you said, and turn in something that hasn't been looked at, but turn something in  and be willing to be told that this isn't good. . 

Heather Frederick: [00:20:36] Or like you were saying, it's  this ability to detach from the feedback. It's not a reflection on you as a person or your intellect.

Using those comments as a guidepost, it's almost as if your, your faculty are giving you a roadmap. Yes, no. Hey, you've got these great ideas. Let us  show you how to craft them into words that are going to work for this assignment. 

Louie Centanni: [00:21:04] And I have a funny story from my undergraduate years, actually. I always remember this as the moment that I realized I could be a writer.

I took this wonderful professor. She's retired now, Dr. Grissom at Trinity University, best English Professor, I can imagine. And I remember I had written a paper for her one time that I didn't take seriously and I didn't care about, and she just raved about it said it was amazing. I didn't know why it was amazing.

And I think some writers have that issue too, where they don't understand why did I get an A on this and a D on this? I don't know. But a couple of weeks later she assigned something else.  I turned it in and the only comment on it was, you're a good writer. This is not good writing. And that was the only comment she didn't tell me which parts, but I got a D I remember my knee-jerk reaction was to be, to be so offended.

 I was so mad. How could she do this to me? How could, you know? And then I went back and I looked at the paper, I read it. And I was like, Oh, you know what?  I don't think this is good writing actually. And then when I detached and took myself away, I realized her comment was kind of a compliment.

 She was telling me you're better than this, if you do the process. And I actually went to her and asked her for some concrete advice, she talked me through where I went astray on that one. And suddenly I was able to see myself as a good writer who was separate from the bad writing I sometimes did.

 And this happens all. I mean, this will happen to you Dr. Frederick and students listening. No matter how high up you go in your field.  

Heather Frederick: [00:22:32] You know I consider myself a decent writer and the amount of feedback I can get on my writing from my colleagues still sometimes boggles my mind.

But at the same time, at some point you get to a point where you crave it. You don't want your writing out there that hasn't been read. 

Louie Centanni: [00:22:47] Yeah. Yeah. 

Heather Frederick: [00:22:48] And you want to know where you weren't articulating what you thought you were and how to make it better, because words are so powerful. 

Louie Centanni: [00:22:55] And that's, and you realize that's the only way to make it better is to continually.

You know, practice it, fail, practice, fail.  It's like any other skill you do not get good at figure skating by hiding your skills until one day you're in the Olympics. You go out there with a coach. You try you, you fall . I played college baseball. There's a lot of striking out. There's a lot of dropping ground balls. There's a lot of failure that goes into that final product we all see. And we're like, wow, they're really good at that. And it's the same in writing.

 I think if people could get over that fear of  being an imposter fear of failing, they would have quite a bit more success. 

Heather Frederick: [00:23:34] So 

let's go over some of the tips you had here today, just write.

We'll worry about editing later. Yeah. Get something on paper, share it with others. Right. Seek feedback. Keep the faith because this is a skill you're going to learn. Just like riding the bike,  don't expect to get on and just go for it the first time. And detaching,   it's not a personal attack.

When people give you feedback on your writing. Now  we do have access to more and more resources. And I know you introduced me to Grammarly. Is that one of your favorites or are there other things that you suggest? 

Louie Centanni: [00:24:10] So Grammarly , is a great one.  I use that all the time.

I have it installed in my browser and whatnot.  I will say that,  some students will. Ask,  isn't Grammarly wrong sometimes. Well, yeah, it's a, it's a computer bot.   It doesn't know your intention. And so  it'll tell you this is incorrect when in reality, that was exactly what you intended to do.

And if you're  breaking rules intentionally, so to speak that's different. And, and you can ignore those tools at times, but when it comes to tools that I use during the writing process, it depends on  what I'm writing. If I'm writing academically, I do think programs like Grammarly that help identify stylistic issues are probably going to be the strongest AIDS.

I don't use Grammarly when I write my comedy for instance, because there's just too much rule-breaking going on. But you know, the best resource I think is frankly, is something you can create and it's just making a sort of template for yourself.  and that goes back to that advice I gave about what is this sentence need to do.

If I map out a paragraph  with  what I need to do before I write any of the information, then suddenly I feel so much more comfortable going into that paragraph and attacking it.  So my resource for writing then is more about that outline preparation. I outline everything I want to do, and I constantly ask myself whether it be academic, short story essay jokes, whatever.

I go back to the question of, what's the point of this?  What do I want my listener or reader, whatever to take from this. And if you can't answer, what's the point, then you have to step back before you try to write anything.  

Heather Frederick: [00:25:42] That's a great technique  if you're out there and you're struggling with writing, maybe pause and make a plan.

Louie Centanni: [00:25:48] Yeah. It would be a good 

place to start. It's a start in life.  You don't go to the gym and say, I want to work out and show up and just, okay, let's do it.  You know which exercises you want. And so you build a routine. And it's the same with writing. You go into a paragraph saying, I need to know what this paragraph is going to do for my reader.

Otherwise it turns into that, you know, here's one thing I know. Here's another thing I know. Here's the third thing I know. And those are the things I know. How do I get this to four pages? 

Heather Frederick: [00:26:14] And it doesn't tell a very coherent story, right? The reader wants to hear a story. . 

Louie Centanni: [00:26:20] And yeah, I think.

One thing that I hate that has been attached to writing for forever is the concept of creativity. You often hear people say I'm not creative creativity and writing do not go together. I mean, they can, but you can be the least creative person ever. And in these traditional senses that the word is used,  you could be the least creative person and still be an excellent academic writer.

 It's about having that plan and executing that plan. It's not about having some, skill that Zeus threw at you and you caught now you're a writing guide down here. 

Heather Frederick: [00:26:53] I think that people listening today are going to feel inspired, motivated. You've given so much hope along with great tools and techniques.

Do you have any last words of wisdom or a favorite quote you'd like to share?  

Louie Centanni: [00:27:07] Yeah,  the words of wisdom I've said multiple times, so I'll just repeat them one last time. Just don't be afraid to fail. Our society teaches that failure is the worst thing ever, and it's really not.

Failure is feedback. Don't take it personally,  laugh at yourself. My favorite sets that I've ever had in comedy were sets that I went out in front of a hundred people and nobody laughed. And I looked like a fool because I walked off stage and I thought, well, that was weird. And I learned, and it's hard the first time it happens and the second time, but you grow to realize this is helping me.

It's not hurting me. And , I often quote it's attributed to Lincoln, but who knows with the internet nowadays, someone can do that research for me. But he said, if you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the ax. And I'd love that concept of just spending most of your upfront time getting ready to do that task because it makes the task easier.

And it's the same with academic writing, the sharpening, the ax is outlining planning, researching, getting ready. So when you sit down, you have everything in front of you that'll, that'll help you just kind of flow through. 

Heather Frederick: [00:28:14] Thank you so much for spending your time with us today. It was so fun to hang out.

Louie Centanni: [00:28:19] Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This has been great. .