Reading: Writing without teachers -Peter Elboe

Dear John,

Last weekend I started practicing free writing which I read in a book of Peter Elbow “Writing without teachers.” I took this book by chance on a library’s bookshelf. Because I didn’t have attention to look for this book, I just found it while looking for my intended book. I have read about this book title in one Ph.D. self-help book. Therefore, this title caught my eyes while I passed by the bookshelf.

It is a small and handy book, so I don’t bring it to my lab, so every night I can read it at bedding time. I have read it for three nights, and Peter Elbow was successful in convincing me to join in his free writing.  I got the same writing problem like his experience,  spent the whole day for only one paragraph, but in the end, I don’t understand what I want to say. Wasting too much time to produce a proper sentence or looking up appropriate vocabulary doesn’t improve my writing coherence much. I need to change my writing method. And I was so  I wrote up three pages just for several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. Also, the most important thing is this helps me to release the tension of slow writing. Several months ago, I got stress with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I want to push myself up, but all of my ideas was gone, I was frustrated. I lose my concentration quickly. I was angry with myself. I am tired.

Luckily,  I could write three pages within several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. In addition, the most important thing is this helps me to release the tension of slow writing. Several months ago, I got stress with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I want to push myself up, but all of my ideas was gone, I was frustrated. I lose my concentration quickly. I was angry with myself. I am tired.

Luckily,  I wrote up three pages just in several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. In addition, the most important thing is this writing method helps me to release the tension of slow writing. I used to be frustrated with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I wanted to push myself up by sticking to my laptop continuously for three days. Finally, my plan didn’t work out, and I suffered terrible back pain. That means my current method was ineffective. Looking for a new writing method is a must right now.

Apart from that, I also found a life lesson beside a new writing process while reading this book. You have to learn the art of letting go. If you care too much about your mistakes and weakness, you can’t move on. They just slow you down and lose your confidence. Of course, in order to improve yourself, learning from your mistakes is needed. But being anxiety and frustrated is not a good idea. Learn how to relax is a critical condition to perform your work well. Now, I realize why the little girl finished her thesis on time. The reason is that she just translated her Vietnamese thought. She didn’t care about all elements of writing while she wrote them down. Even there were a lot of mistakes in her first draft, it was still ok. Later, her superior edited her writing. The lesson is I should not care too much about my writing at the same time I need to clarify my ideas. I made me comfortable to express my thinking, later you and professional editor will do the role of editor for your writing.

Another lesson I learned during my reading a book section about Bloom’s mastery learning. One of the misunderstandings about Bloom’s theory among secondary school teachers is time-consuming, late curriculum coverage. Bloom argued that mastery learning will slow the teaching pace at the early stage because teachers spend more time to find students’ errors and correct them. But after that, their progress will be faster than those in ordinary classes when students are familiar with the techniques.

From this ideas, I believe that a current slow pace will change when I master the effective writing skills, and complete my writing at a faster pace and improving quality. It is also a good point to persuade teachers to apply formative assessment or new teaching methods in Vietnam. Time-consuming is one of their most concerns.

I feel full of inspiration now John. Have a nice day.




Writing well

Dear John,

Today I learn one interesting thing relating requirements to nominate a good thesis in my school. I have known four students who got the best thesis award in last year and two got nominations for the best thesis this year. By observing their background, I found one common factor among them is their good English. Three of them are from TESOL major and one uses English as her second language. That means writing well helps your readers understand you and get more interest in your research. That is a crucial feature to have a good thesis. Apart from that, they also conducted good studies.

Compared to other students who are not in TESOL major, they have good knowledge on their specific major like TESOL students. But their weakness is language which results in more difficulties in  expressing their ideas clearly.  Therefore, they struggled and get depression during their writing process. To help them release their stresses, they usually criticize others for asking them to rewrite their drafts many times. I am experiencing my writing difficulties at this moment, this helps me more empathize with them. But I think that blaming others for your weakness can’t help you improve yourself. Let’s accept your mistake and learn from it.

Once I confessed to Mairo – one of my colleagues in Ph.D room that I am so stupid, she said you are not stupid, your only problem is poor English.  So, how can I enhance my writing skill?

  1. From yourself: Practice, practice and practice.
  2. From others: Ask for help from every source you can reach out.
  3. After all, coming back to yourself and ask yourself what help you improve most.
  4. Last but not least, be patient and focus on your practicing and all is coming.

Have a nice day John




Be bold, be blessed

Dear John,

This post today is about three women working in a building where I am studying. Two of them are cleaners and one is my colleague. Each person has been teaching me some value lessons. Honestly, I didn’t have good impression towards them. But after several months knowing together, I found many things I should learn from them.

  1. A bold lipstick cleaner. I call her by that name because she usually wears bold makeup with black eyeliner and red lipstick. The first time  I saw her cleaning a toilet in the ground floor, I thought “Does it worth to make up your face like that as you are  a cleaner? Now I know I am so rude to judge her like that. Whatever you do, you have a right to make yourself beautiful as a woman. No one loves you and understands you more clearly than you. So just be bold like you are.
  2. A quite cleaner. She is Indian. She works in quite and seldom talks like the bold lipstick cleaner. I can feel the calm in her face and smile. She is in charge of cleaning the second and third floor and my study room is in a second floor. She is always willing to clean up that room whenever I ask her. Yesterday, I saw her sitting quietly on the staircases while I was going to the restroom. I felt strange and asked in my mind whether something bad had happened to her or maybe she was so tired after cleaning and just sat down for a rest. I was about to ask her whether she was ok, but I thought she couldn’t speak English, I  just passed by and gave a greeting smile. When I came back from the restroom with another way so I could see her from the back , she still sat there with her thumbs on her middle fingers. Now I know she was meditating or maybe praying as Indian tradition. Now I understand why her face is so calm most of the time. There is always a reason behind people’s behaviour. So don’t judge or criticise anyone if you don’t know much about them
  3. My cold colleague. I only say one thing. Work quietly and let you results speak for you.

Have a nice day John.

Lessons from my reading

Dear John,

I have stopped my writing for a while to concentrate on my reading about academic writing. I found two interesting books which open my eye much more about writing skill

  1. Mike Wallace and Alison Wray (2011), Critical reading and writing for postgraduates, Sage Publication
  2. Douglas Flemons (2014) , Writing between the lines: Composition in the Social Sciences, e-version.

I am struggling with my writing. Even I have tried to connect with my readers in my writing, I still fail. I know I got problems somewhere. By reading these books, they help me to locate which part I am doing in a wrong way. I can’t keep my writing in this way with the hope that the more I write the better my writing is. Knowing how to do a right thing is more important than doing a lot without quality awareness.

I don’t think my writing will improve right after reading these books. But at least I know what is the right way to fix my problems and practising with a good coach might promise me to have a better result. Ok, just do it and let’s see.

Hae a nice day John


What I have learnt last three days (20-22 May)

Dear John,

Last three days I was sick with a terrible cold, headache, body pain. While lying down in my bed, I had more time to listen to my body and surrounds. I could feel the pain of blood which got stuck in my brain nerve. I could feel my legs getting cold and hurt somewhere. I could feel the beauty of human body even in the state of pain. When I get bored to listen to my body, I listened to bird song in my hostel’s garden. That sound was so sweet also. I just think that whatever happen to me, just look at positive side of them and then you can move on quickly. That is the yesterday’s lesson

My target now is learning every day from everyone I meet, everything I read and hear.

  • Now, I know about a new product which is called handy scanner. It is helpful to scan book or document. I think whether I should buy it or not (From a short talk in Resource Room with Ph.D. student) (Friday’s lesson)
  • Don’t talk everything you know, when people talk more; you have a good chance to understand them. (Look like a book’s title “Mẹ không biết, con nghĩ đi) (Sunday’s lesson)
  • Don’t reply someone’s needs immediately. Let them wait a little bit to see what is their motivation. (Saturday’s experience)
  • Don’t take a bath too long after swimming; you will get cold later on

I hope to learn more new lessons in this week John

Another way of thinking

Dear John,

Last night, while crocheting a purse for my friend, I listened to Ajahn Brahm’s talk  which is about expanding your view. He gave me good food to think about life in a different way. I think it is true. Our behaviours usually follow our culture , our group where we live or work together. We do something because of our family’s tradition, we do because of our organisation’s culture, we do because it used to be like that in this place. I think following tradition is a good way to preserve our unique culture, but somehow it prevents us to think the world in different views. We judge a new situation with an old view. It is unreasonable, especially in this 21st century when the life changes with a fast pace.

What should we do?

I know it is very tough to live happily and healthy in this modern life. People are working hard to be a leader, an inventor, a talented person, a richer. You try hard to prove that you are the best. Even if you don’t have talent or money, you should have a good appearance by cosmetic surgery . If you don’t have all these things, you will be good at judging people in social media. That can explain the increasing number of people struggling with cancer, depression, suicide, and many mental problems in these days.

So how can I change my life? I don’t want to turn my life to be a competition because this life is so short to compare to others. I want to be myself.

  1. Think different: People think death is sad, I think it is a good thing in life. Death is a start of new life. People think more money is happier. Money can make your life comfortable, live minimalist. People love titles, beautiful faces. Just be who your are and look for a beautiful soul.
  2. Live slow: Life is short, life is this moment.
  3. Care for experience, not material.
  4. Your life, not others’ life
  5. Learn new things everyday with everyone you meet

Have a nice day John




The world

Dear John,

During several talks to local people here and my reading somewhere, I found that the academic life is stressful as the same everywhere. In some countries, you can get high salary but the requirement to stay is taking all your sweat, in other countries with low salary, that means your life is easier to breathe with fewer requirements. Those who can survive in this high-pressure life are eager to learn new things, to change and to move on. This modern world forces you to live faster, to be more greedy, but after 8 hours of working day or between the fast pace of a busy day, it is better to find a moment to slow down and enjoy the life.

I love the post “How can we find the time?” of WP – Tenure, She wrote. As a female academician, you also have a burden responsibility as a role of a mother and a wife. You need a good skill to manage your time to survive in this tough career. Whenever you are, wherever you live, you will survive with opened mind and positive attitude.

Good luck John.

Don’t try too hard

Dear John,

This morning I think about three stories that remind not to try too hard. Because overworking makes me stress and you can’t have productivity with a stressful mind. I admit that.

Lesson 1: Last year, I worked very hard to finish at least two papers to extend my fellowship. As a result, my eyes got hurt. The first time I checked up in my school clinic, the doctor said to me shortly before giving me some pain-killer. “Don’t study too hard, take a short break after every hour.”

Lesson 2: We hold a workshop for grad students. The cafeteria suddenly couldn’t set up the tea- break buffet; all foods and drink were put in containers and bags, there were no tissues. I suggested buying some tissue in the convenience shop opposite my school. But I had to walk quite far. I insisted on going while my friend told me to make a cute face to respond students’ complaint. Now, I learnt that having tissues or not at that time was not a big problem because students still enjoyed the food. The tea break is just a small part of the workshop; students came to learn something, not to eat.

Lesson 3:  I met my supervisor two days ago. My writing is not coherence enough. I told him I have tried that why it took me too long to finish my draft. He reminded me not try too hard because I have time to revise it later. Now, just let finish my proposal and I have a long way to improving it. This is not a right time to have a perfect writing, let save my energy to do it when I  submit the final copy.


Writing is not easy

Dear John,

After finishing writing one section, I need to read the writing guideline again. Although I had tried hard to follow this, my current writing didn’t reach to the desired level. My supervisor told me not try too hard because he knew it takes a lot of time to practice. Now I understand and always remind me to be brave and be eager to rewrite several times. I am learning from my mistakes. Each time I look back my writing, there is many things to revise. So at this moment, don’t worry too much and keep writing. My writing can’t be perfect just in one month, one semester or one year, just write and rewrite. When you feel tired, just stop, take a rest and write again.

Be patient dear

Move on a new Chapter

Dear John,

Yesterday I finished the new chapter outline; I feel happy as I can finish it in one day. It seems like what I have worked for one and a half year is now repaying me. My supervisor asked me whether I can finish the new Chapter in two weeks, I can’t answer the time for sure, but I will try my best. Now I can feel that everything is there, just organise it in right order. My supervisor reminds me to pay attention to the coherence between sentences and paragraphs. I have tried to do like that, but my writing is still not going up at that level. I am aware of it, but I have a long way to improving my skills.

Ok, keep working every day and enjoy it.