Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Writing on Command


For someone who’s a compulsive blogger/writer, for someone who comes up with research ideas almost daily… I find it really difficult to write on command. As in, when someone does me the honor of asking me to write something for a particular place or location, or on a particular topic. I start out with loads of ideas and excitement and then…

Mental block, slight panic attack.

They chose me? Me! They want me to write for them! I wonder what I did to impress them? How do they want me to write this? What is the purpose of this?

What kind of effect do I want to have? Do I want someone to learn from reading it, or have an emotional reaction, or take some kind of action afterwards?

Do I want to wear my motherhood hat, my Egyptian postcolonial hat? My empowered semi-privileged hat? My open educator hat? My faculty development hat? My teacher-educator, researcher, MOOCaholic, feminist, aaaaaahhhhhh

Yeah. It’s the fourth time this happens in 2 months. It’s happened many times before. And it works out ok in the end. Definitely better than the online interviews 🙂 Because sometime in the past year I became a better writer than speaker (when I had always considered myself a better speaker; more spontaneous than reflective; when did this change? When I gave birth? When I was finishing my PhD? When I was writing up my thesis while caring for a child, and therefore using more mental faculties to write than to speak?). Anyway, the good news is: it’s an invite to write 🙂

Calm down, it’ll come to me. It takes a bit longer than my usual half hour per blogpost, but it’ll come. I’m sure. Something will inspire me soon.

But it makes me think of our students, who often don’t have the well-honed writing muscles we do. And then I think of giving them assignments where they have to follow a prompt. Loose or directed, it’s still some other person’s writing prompt. Then again, they’re not often comfortable with freewriting, either. I know because I have assessed classes where students are annoyed with the professor who asks them to write a short (like 300 word) journal/blogpost daily on anything, and it drives them nuts. I think the profs have the right idea, keep the kids’ writing muscle going. But I wonder if that practice helps them later write for more formal assignments?

When I started blogging i wondered if it would have a positive or negative influence on my academic writing. I’d say definitely positive in the sense it gives me more ideas and helps me develop them. Some end up published, others stay on the blog. But blogging has done something even better. It’s helped me collaborate with others in ways I had never expected, and writing became a form of connecting, not just a form of self-expression. Hey, maybe I’ll write about that 🙂 Not here 🙂 For that thing 😉



  1. @Bali_Maha @slamteacher @chris_friend Strangely, I’m the opposite. I write better and quickly on command. But I hear you. It’s always hard.

  2. @Jessifer @slamteacher @chris_friend i get how restrictions & deadlines can make one creative 🙂 it’s probably an impostor syndrome thing…

  3. @Bali_Maha @slamteacher @chris_friend Yeah, I have that too. My tactic is usually to work so much that I don’t have time to think about it.

  4. @Bali_Maha @Jessifer @slamteacher I’m also opposite, but in a different way. Starting writing is hardest for me.

  5. @Bali_Maha @Jessifer @slamteacher Deadlines and specific requests (writing on demand) helps me greatly.

  6. @chris_friend @Jessifer @slamteacher deadlines used to help, like i put myself a deadline to finish my thesis. Need to get that mojo back 😉

  7. @chris_friend @Jessifer @slamteacher i think, tho, it’s about the expectation, like not wanting to let folks down, or sthg

  8. @Bali_Maha @Jessifer @slamteacher Deadlines for me cannot be self-imposed. I see through them too easily. I call my own bluffs.

  9. @chris_friend @Jessifer @slamteacher lol! I thought everyone finished their thesis with self-imposed deadlines! Otherwise, would keep going

  10. @chris_friend @Jessifer @slamteacher thinking, tho, writing ABOUT collab writing should be, u know, a collab effort 😉

  11. @Bali_Maha @slamteacher Nope. Finished diss because @digirhet set deadlines; @Jessifer provided confidence.

  12. @chris_friend @Bali_Maha @slamteacher @Jessifer Deadlines: The extrinsic motivation so many of us need! 🙂

  13. @digisim thank u Simon 🙂 funny how my totally confused state produced a post that ppl liked parts of 🙂

  14. Writing on command generally works differently for me – there is much more framing/processing/editing going on.
    Blogging is on command but is generally less consciously framed/processed/edited – it’s more freehand scribble – more interesting for me to read as it’s like a surprise to see what unwraps itself. There are moments when I am aware of ongoing analysis – others when it is quite unexpected.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: