Learn from the experts


Bill Black

My research interests have primarily focused on leadership preparation and partnerships as well as critical policy implementation, with particular interest in leadership and policy related to students identified with disabilities and bilingual/bicultural students. I am a Professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Lifelong Learning at the University of South Florida, where I have served for over 10 years as an Area Program Coordinator in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS). I also served as the co-editor of The Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, am currently the co-editor the Research and Theory in Educational Administration, have served as editorial board member of multiple journals in the field, and have been a Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Coordinator, or Coordinator on a total of eight (8) grants totaling $4.358 million. I am currently serving as the Past President of the University Council of Educational Administration.

Describe your writing process/routine?

 I typically try to get at least 15-25 minutes per day (even if it is organizing or making notes) and then one longer day per week during the academic year. I find that I get too tired at night given other program and family responsibilities-so I try to get something done early. This year I am working on turning off my e-mail for periods of time so I am not interrupted.

When did you develop your writing process/routine?

Over time-but this has been more recent. Covid and parenting also forced me to look at using smaller bits of time to think about it and then schedule at least one longer period of time per week. When possible, I can then expand the days that I can write for longer periods of time. 

Why did you develop your writing routine?

It has had to evolve as my personal and family situation has evolved-I used to be able to go to coffee houses and spend hours at a time-now I try to squeeze in a little time every day and then have one day a week when I am able to spend a larger chunk of time. 

How did you improve your academic writing skills?

It helps to have colleagues review your work and to write with others. In addition, my work as an editor has been helpful-working as a graduate assistant for Qualitative Studies in Education, as well as reviewing articles for academic journals and serving as co-editor of the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership. 

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.)?

Mentors have always helped. I remember one of my professors at University of Texas, Jay Scribner told me that he loved feedback-even critical feedback, as it helped to think through the next draft. So, becoming less fearful of rejection or critical feedback has been very helpful. If something is rejected, I can take the feedback and rework and re-submit elsewhere so that I don’t feel that my efforts go nowhere. I also think my writing and researching informs my teaching and service. In addition, my service can expose me to new research and other writing and researching partners. So, I think being able to take rejection and be in a community of supportive colleagues is important. 

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

I often don’t as much as I want to. Having a child with a significant disability takes a lot of time. So partially, I turn my own personal experience into part of my writing and presentations-for example, parenting and disability or program coordination and leadership preparation. I also try to make sure I take a developmental approach-from idea to conference submission-to presentation-to publication. I try to have approximately 3 writing projects (a chapter, article, policy brief, or edited book) going on at a time and have learned to say no to more commitments-having more that 3 makes me feel stretched. I also use planning software to help me manage the flows. 

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

I have found that even taking 15 or 20 minutes at the end of the day helps me keep thinking about writing, even when I didn’t have time during the day. 

What is the best writing advice you have gotten?

Rejection is ok-it is part of the process-and it is not the end of the process. 

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

I think any project management software or tools are helpful. I also think reading good writers is helpful and inspiring. 

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

You can write for multiple audiences. You can take an idea and develop a peer reviewed journal article, emphasize something else from the data (or concepts) and incorporate into a book chapter (and for qualitative researchers sometimes book chapters can be longer), and translate into a policy brief or opinion piece-or article for practitioner journal. Good ideas and data can travel across multiple spaces. 

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

I have admired multiple fiction writers who help me think about writing-I think anybody can look at fiction writers. I like to also consider clear writing as well as complex writing. When I looked at the career of Michael Apple, I saw an evolution from more dense prose embedded in critical theory to more clear and accessible texts for a broader audience. I like both. I also have greatly admired some of the writing of my co-chair at UT Austin-Angela Valenzuela-who weaves powerful stories with compelling theory that invites or almost demands activism. 

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?)

Take advantage of your time in graduate school to read widely-it is actually harder to find time to read as a professor with many other service and teaching commitments. Write with doctoral students-it can be mutually beneficial. I also like to look at reference sections of articles I like or use-that can generate a trail for interesting perspectives on your topic/idea. 

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.

Check out our new book: Who Decides: Power, Disability and Educational Leadership 

Anything you’d like to add?

I almost said no to the invitation as I do not see myself as productive as others. But, I am committed to having contributions across teaching, service, and research-I like a balanced approach. I would offer that doing good service and teaching well are also about being a good colleague and those are nourishing as well. So-put writing in perspective of what person you want to be in relationship to others-do they know you best through your writing and/or through service and teaching. There are multiple ways that we are in relationship to others and writing is part of being in a community. 

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