How to write an academic article in international law? A step-by-step guide…for me. Generating ideas.

You are reading this, because maybe just like me, you don’t know where to start when thinking about the possibility to write an academic article in international law, there are tons of ideas, tons of new things happening in and around the area and when I take finally the courage to think about writing an article, I just don’t feel capable of doing it.

Thinking of myself as a possible academic writer, is just something that looks quite far away, and by far I mean the distance between Mexico and the Hague, to say the least, there is an Atlantic in between, such distance is enormous. And, for sure, you can get from Mexico to the Hague, you can do it by foot, by car, multimodal, rowing and finally by plane.

Reading all those great authors, feels just like that enormous distance, then I fell that I cannot do it, plus the language barrier, one just cannot get around those ideas, not having a pristine and exact language, however, I think there is a combination of tools that we can use to start the spark and the little hamster in my brain starts spinning the wheel.

Most of the times I see the call for papers of every reputable journal, I even did a Twitter List with the not so original title “International Law” to see the newest call for papers on the possible subjects to that I can get my head around and try to force my brain to make a possible proposal with the much likely possibility to be rejected, which for the past couple of years this has been the norm.

What is the problem? Obviously is me, and why? Well, I was doing reverse engineering, that is, I wanted to adapt myself to what was called without having much of previous thinking about the subjects, therefore, the proposals were lacking any profound thinking.

What to do instead? In here I will bring the great book of Joan Bolker, Writing your Dissertation 15 Minutes A Day as catchy as the title may suggest, be aware upfront that it is impossible attempting to write your PhD thesis 15 minutes a Day, but it is better than not writing at all, well with just 15 minutes a day for sure it will take you a great amount of years to finish your PhD dissertation, but who am I to judge?

So, let’s get back to the issue of reverse engineering and how to do things maybe a little bit different, and it is with a double theorem to maybe generate ideas, however, it is mostly on how to set myself as a possible writer, maybe not an academic writer, but at least, to see myself as a plain writer that likes to write about issues regarding international law, and that takes a lot of weight over my shoulders.

What to do?, every morning, do free writing, you can do it as free as you want, or with a possible subject in mind, for example, I am free writing on the issue of the principle of Comity among International Courts and Tribunals, and this might get me in a possible academic fight with a top notch heavy-weight scholar Yuval Shany, (dear Prof. Shany if you are reading this is not a serious fight), in here I am writing freely, no strings attached.

Do I feel good about it? Yes, am I having any type of progress, possibly yes, are ideas emerging? for sure, but, the first element of first writing is to write, how long? I set myself a goal of just three pages a day–following Bolker recipe–, sometimes is less and sometimes is more, the core idea is that I am generating ideas, and then before calling it a day, I stop with possible questions for the next day, and I continue.

Are they any possible call for papers? for sure they are, am I interested? not for the moment. Because I am right now just writing, maybe at the end of the month, I will see if there is something to call a possible research question and possible themes and sub-themes that arise from such mess.

I’ll keep you posted in this journey, but I hope it gives you also ideas on how to write.


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