Learn from the experts


Jennifer Mcgarry

I’m a professor of Sport Management and former Department Head of Educational Leadership at UConn. This was my first position out of my PhD program 22 years ago. I have been PI (Principal Investigator) on a USDA SNAP-Ed grant since 2005, focusing on nutrition education and physical activity programs for SNAP recipients across the state of Connecticut. I manage a large staff as a result, while trying to maintain an active research agenda. It’s challenging!

Describe your writing process/routine?

I read so much for anything I write. I read, take notes, and select key quotes. I’m big on quotes. I don’t always use them all, but I highlight to help my thought process. I find that by reading what others have already written, I’m able to develop my research to where it contributes, builds upon, and extends others’ work. Then, I organize and re-organize my notes, adding more detail. Eventually, those notes begin to become full sentences and paragraphs. I write in installments, many of them. I try to lay out reasonable goals each time I write, along with a timeframe that matches those goals. if I’m inspired, I run with it. Otherwise, I try to use my energy to accomplish what I can, always knowing I will re-read what’s been written and revise it. 

When did you develop your writing process/routine?

I was an English major as an undergraduate and master’s student, then a high school English teacher prior to beginning my PhD program. So, I’ve written a lot for a long time. I was always someone who started a writing assignment far in advance, working on it in parts for many days. I found this approach has served me well throughout my PhD program and time as a professor. 

Why did you develop your writing routine?

I have never been able to make myself write if I am tired or lacking focus. So, I could never sit down and crank out papers or assignments at the last minute. I also learned from my mom, who has her PhD and taught college and high school throughout my life, the value of revising. She taught me to leave my writing when I was stuck and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Or, have someone else read my work in progress and provide insights to keep me moving forward. I’ve taken these lessons to heart in my academic career and pass them on to my students and colleagues.

How did you improve your academic writing skills?

Practice. Lots of practice. And, being able to take feedback from reviewers in order to make my writing more clear and concise. I also found that collaborating with others taught me a lot about the writing process. When you collaborate, you learn new things about how others write and how to blend approaches and styles.

What time of day do you find you write best?

Morning (5-6am – 12pm)

What resources helped you become a better writer (books, mentors, writers, etc.)?

My best resources have been colleagues who I’ve asked to read my work and provide feedback, especially Marlene Dixon at Texas A&M. We collaborated quite a bit early in our careers and continue to support each other’s writing with critical conversations. 

How do you make time for writing with all the other commitments you have?

This is one of the hardest things I have to do professionally. Writing time is me time, and if I don’t do it, no one is going to remind me and push me to make it happen. It’s so easy to do other things and let writing be delayed until later. I know I need to write when I am fresh, so I must schedule appointments with myself first thing in the morning and turn everything else off. I need to focus and clear all other commitments and distractions in order to write. I can’t even have music or any noise. My ideal environment would be on my laptop, feet up, in a comfortable chair, in a room, in a library. Silence, and no one would know where I was or how to find me.

What are your strategies for staying productive and for maintaining momentum with your writing?  (get specific and concrete)

I’ve been making appointments with myself to write for a long time. Recently, I have invited one other person to those appointments. We meet, lay out our goals for the writing session to each other, then go on our individual ways until we check back in several hours later. Next, we let the other know what we’ve accomplished, where we’ve struggled, and then provide support. We usually have 2 or 3 hour sessions. Manageable and focused. 

What is the best writing advice you have gotten?

Write regularly, even if it isn’t for long, make it a regularly scheduled time in your week. Sometimes you can take a whole day, but even if it’s an hour, make it happen. 

What writing tools do you suggest? (Apps, books, etc.)

I really don’t rely on any writing tools like apps and books, I just read more of others’ writing generally to help me.

What are some specific practices and rules for writing within your discipline that other researchers and graduate students might not be aware of?

There’s isn’t much that’s specific to sport management since it is a field born out of several other fields. 

Who are some writers you particularly admire, and what about their writing seems most admirable to you?

I am a big fan of Bell Hooks. I find her writing to be unconventional and so critical. She pushes me to think about things differently by how she articulates her thinking. 

What advice would you give to fellow writers (Make this concrete. i.e.: Read widely – what does that look like in practice? How does that benefit the process? What should the writer be looking for when reading?)

Schedule time to write with an agenda, just like you would for any other meeting you have. Hold yourself to that time and if you don’t accomplish what you set out to do, schedule a follow up session. Block that time each week, and once you submit an article or share a draft with someone for feedback, take a break from those meetings with yourself to clear your head and regroup for the next round. 

Big Yourself Up!: What pubs, books, projects would you like to let others know about? Add links to your website, etc. so people can find you and your work.


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