Our friend and colleague Frank Valdes (University of Miami) also attended the first annual Margaret Montoya Legal Scholarship Retreat. He shared his thoughts on the craft of scholarly writing during the retreat. Here are a few things that we learned from Professor Valdes:
- There are puzzles, and then are Puzzles. Most scholarship is problem-solving. Some problems consist of puzzles (small p), problems that we have already solved in our minds. Our solution might be a tentative one, or it might be fully-developed. In either case, the purpose of our scholarly writing is to share our pre-arranged solutions with our readers. Other problems, by contrast, consist of Puzzles (capital P), problems we have no idea how to solve ahead of time. In these cases, writing is a form of discovery.
- Cultivate your scholarly garden every single day. There is no algorithm for deciding what problems or puzzles/Puzzles are worth working on, but you must work on your problems every single day. This work might consist of studying the existing literature on one of your problems. Or it might consist of writing a paragraph or an entire page about some aspect of one of your problems. Or it might consist of editing a passage or page you have already written. Whatever the case, there are no short cuts. One must allocate sufficient time each day to one’s scholarly projects and problems. (This will be the time when you close your door, shut off your email, and just work.)
- It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done. When do you know a particular project of yours is done? Ideally, it’s when you feel you have said something original or novel about the problem you are working on …