Learn from the experts


Aaron J. Griffen, Ph.D

I am a practitioner scholar in my 24th year in education, currently serving as the Chief Equity Officer of DSST Public Schools in Denver, Colorado. I previously served as a high school principal, assistant principal, and English teacher. I have an active writing and publishing agenda which includes guest lecturing, presenting at conferences, and educational consulting. 

Describe your writing process/routine?

I write whenever I have deep thought and reflection. This includes writing notes in a journal, on a sticky note, napkin or paper, and/or recording my thoughts verbally in a recorder. I usually write on Saturday or Sundays (blocking out 2 to 4 hours of writing), and sometimes in the evening for about 2 hours. 

When did you develop your writing process/routine?

I developed this routine during my PhD journey and have kept it. I would wake up early (before my job as an Assistant Principal) and would read from 4 to 6 a.m. I’d then get home from work and write from 6 to 10 p.m. I have since modified to read for about an hour and then write for 2 hours, or on the weekends. 

Why did you develop your writing routine?

I developed this routine to meet deadlines and to be sure I am reviewing my work as I am writing. 

How did you improve your academic writing skills?

I improved my academic writing skills by replicating other favorite scholars and writing styles. As an English teacher, I taught my students to write to their audience. Therefore, when I write, I always know to who I am writing and what my target audience needs or desires. This means replicating and building on my previous work, along with soliciting input, feedback, and partnerships with senior, mid-career, and early career scholars. 

What time of day do you find you write best?

Night (7pm – 12am)

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

Other writers…just emulating and accepting my writing style. 

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

I schedule it in my calendar as Adjunct, Writing, Consulting time. 

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

There are multiple strategies:

  1. As you get an idea, write it down in a journal.
  2.  Prioritize your ideas.
  3. Read posts for chapters and journals as they come out to see if any fit your passion or that of a colleague.
  4. Seek out colleagues to co-author.
  5. When folks ask for co-authors, reach out to co-author.
  6. Use your graduate school papers.
  7. Present at conferences, get feedback and turn the presentation into a paper or book.

What is the best writing advice you have gotten?

Be unapologetic in my writing… “I am the authority”…”Know my audience”….”Write when emotional”…”Invite others along the journey”

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

Books, journals, APA 7th Edition resources

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

Be sure you are being inclusive and have data to back up the research. All research is challengeable. If you don’t have the data to support, then your writing becomes subjective and obsolete immediately. Focus on things that have not already been said…what is unique about your study, your concept, your input… What are the groups you are writing about saying? (Meaning, if you are writing about Black youth, you should be citing Black scholars…if you are talking about women, you should be citing women of all races…)

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

There are too many to list here….they write from a place of experience, harm, trauma and passion. Folks don’t want to read about feelings…they want data because it detaches them away from human emotion. However, it is human emotion that causes the data. We need to know how folks navigate their realities; otherwise, their realities are easily manipulated. 

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?)

When reading, be sure you go to the references and find seminal works. Pay homage to the folks who came before the “popular” contemporary folks. When we only focus on the new most popular folks, we run the risk of participating in a narrative that states what our reality is (is made up) and new. NOT a tradition, or systemic, or structural. Furthermore, attend sessions on writing and research. Stay up to date on your research by subscribing to academia.edu and other platforms. 

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.

You can check out Dr. Griffen’s author pages below: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09K6NVDQT 

Articles, Essays and Chapters:

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1222620.pdf https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=intersections https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1233791.pdf 

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